Boeing is still working to establish its 777X production location, but has made significant step forward with the most recent labor vote. Near the end of last year, Washington’s machinists’ union voted against Boeing’s proposed contract. The union’s members were strongly opposed to the changes in their retirement benefit plans. The proposed contract would have ended the existing pension plans, and would shift the union member’s retirement planning to the now more common 401(k) type benefits. As a result, Boeing began looking to other states for the 777X production. This move would have led to the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for Washington.
A New Vote
Three days into the new year, Boeing offered another contract that still required the switch from pensions to 401(k)s, but contains additional benefits that would compensate for the change. For instance, union members will receive a $5,000 bonus in 2020. The union voted on the new contract on January 3rd of this year. The members approved the new contract but only by the slimmest of margins, 51 to 49 percent. The incredibly close vote led some union members to call for a recount or a new vote. Assuming the vote stands and the contract goes into effect, Boeing will be building its 777X planes in the Puget Sound area from 2016 to 2024. Boeing will also begin building the wings for the 777X in Washington, which is a win for Washington, since the wings for
the 777 are currently manufactured in Japan. The new contract, based on the vote, will also mean that at least 49 percent of the union’s members will be under a contract that they do not fully support.
Employment: A Negotiation
Washington is an “at-will” employment state, for the most part. This means that employers can terminate employment without any significant justification, so long as the reason is not discriminatory or in retaliation. It also means that employees generally can terminate their own employment as they choose, subject to the terms of contracts. This gives employers and employees the ability to negotiate and create employment agreements that benefit both sides and encourage continued employment. In many cases, employers have created an employment package or agreement prior to offering the job. For instance, most retail and fast food employees will likely be offered the exact same benefits, wages, and possibly maximum hours as their future co-workers. The person offered the job has the option of accepting the offer, making a counter-offer (though counter offers in retail and fast food are rare), or rejecting the offer. It is on an individual
basis. Union members, however, have less individual say in their employment agreements than non-union members because the unions negotiate the employment contracts for all of its members. That being said, union members who do not accept the new contract still have the option of rejecting to agreement and seeking work elsewhere.
Drafting, negotiating, and reviewing employment contracts can be complicated, and an experienced employment attorney can help you today.