Any tentative agreement must be ratified by 50 percent of Machinists voting to avert strike.

Share story

Mark Blondin and Tom Wroblewski, leaders of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, were en route to a Disney Resort in Florida today to meet with Boeing officials in an attempt to avert a strike in the Puget Sound area. The two union leaders were due in around 6 p.m. Florida time.

The negotiations with Boeing are at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort hotel, the venue for the IAM’s Grand Lodge convention which starts Sunday. IAM international president Tom Buffenbarger is already there and will join the Boeing negotiations.

As the two union leaders and Boeing officials traveled to Florida the clock was already ticking on a last-minute, 48-hour extension of the contract to try to find common ground.

But Buffenbarger said in a phone interview that it could be done.

“Boeing knows what it takes to reach an agreement. The union knows what it takes. It’s making it work,” said Buffenbarger. “It only takes an hour to reach an agreement.”

On the surface, chances of success in the short time available look slim.

Boeing wants the union to narrow its demands to a “few critical areas.” But the union has a long litany of issues that it won’t accept.

If the company and union leaders manage to reach a tentative agreement, it must be ratified by employee vote. Since the union members have already voted the necessary two-thirds majority to strike, the bar Boeing has to reach has been raised: now they need a 50 percent ratification vote to avert a production stoppage.

If there is no tentative agreement, the union will be on strike as of midnight Friday.

Around the Boeing plants in the region, union members were still stunned by the last-minute suspension of strike action, with many angry at the union leaders for stepping back from the brink.

Boeing executives sent out a note to managers noting that employees are required to work as usual today and Friday. “Refusal to work and unexcused absences should be handled according to established company practices,” the note stated. “Prior to taking any action related to refusal to work, managers should consult with their site Employee Relations specialist.”

And in a message sent late last night, chief executive Jim McNerney also urged all Boeing employees to continue to work.

“Meanwhile, our negotiations team will be working with the federal mediator and IAM leadership in good faith to find a path forward,” McNerney said.

One machinist working at the Seattle headquarters building this morning was dubious.

“I don’t see how they can do it in 48 hours,” he said. “This could turn real ugly.”

Boeing stock dropped 4.6 percent in trading today, closing at $63.03, down $3.04.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com