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MACHINISTS, what are you going to do now?

The International Association of Machinists District 751 voted 2-1 to reject the contract that union negotiators reached with Boeing.

This isn’t a usual labor negotiation, in which the “no” vote sends the ball into management’s court under the threat of a strike. There can be no lawful strike until the old contract expires in 2016. And management has already hit the ball back to the union by saying it will offer the 777X work in a competition to Salt Lake City, Long Beach, Calif., and Huntsville, Ala., just for starters. And, sure, Everett can try for it.

Is Boeing bluffing? It wasn’t in 2009, when it demanded a 10-year no-strike deal to keep the second 787 line at Everett. The company took its billion dollars of investment to a right-to-work state. Boeing is making 787s with nonunion workers in South Carolina.

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Is Boeing bluffing this time? The Machinists just voted to find out.

union members were sore at the suddenness of a vote. It was sudden.
Union President Tom Wroblewski was not helpful by standing with Gov. Jay Inslee to ask the Legislature to make big tax concessions, which it swiftly did in a special session. Then Wroblewski stood with “Fighting Machinists” in denouncing the contract offer as “crap,” and issued a statement to members saying, “This is an opportunity we will never see again to secure thousands of good-paying jobs in the State of Washington.”

If the Machinists want those jobs in Everett, send your negotiators back to management. Boeing officials said Thursday they’ll be back in touch with the union in a couple of years to negotiate when the current contract expires. Meantime, they begin in earnest to find a place to build the 777X.

Union members need to understand where management is coming from. To Boeing, the decision about where to build the 777X is about how to price the airplane today for delivery in the early 2020s. The company has to figure out how much it can charge for a 777X and how much it must pay to get it built. Boeing’s offer to the Machinists was aimed to fix a price.

By saying “no,” the union has set a higher price for building the airplane in Washington.

Is all lost for building the 777X in Everett? That’s unclear. But if District 751 wants to build that plane here, the union — leadership and rank and file together — should make the next overture to Boeing, and soon.

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