Machinists Worry Renton Could Lose 737MAX Work under Boeing Offer

Nov 7, 2013

Boeing wants its machinists’ union to accept big concessions on retirement and health benefits in exchange for winning the assembly of the 777X wide-body jet in the Puget Sound region. But machinists are also worried the contract casts doubt on the future of the 737MAX in Renton. 

The International Association of Machinists Local 751 reached a landmark agreement with Boeing in 2011 that secured a promise to build the 737MAX in Renton. Union leaders reached that deal with Boeing executives secretly about a year before the contract was set to expire.

Now, machinists are concerned that agreement on the 737MAX is in jeopardy. The company’s latest proposal to the union says it won’t extend the so-called Letter of Understanding 42, in which the company pledged to build the plane in Renton, after it expires in 2016.

That has Steve Ramsey, a machinist who works on the 737, worried. 

"If we vote for this contract, Letter of Understanding 42 goes away, and Boeing has the full right after that to move the 737, all or in part, out of state," Ramsey said.

That could mean the state might even lose Boeing jobs under this latest proposal from the company, Ramsey said.

A union spokesman didn’t provide an explanation of that part of the proposal in time for this story.

Boeing declined to comment except to say it plans to start building the 737MAX in Renton in 2015. Boeing recently announced plans to boost production of the 737 in coming years, though it didn’t say where it will build the additional planes.

Beverly Wyse, Boeing's general manager of the 737, said in a statement that Boeing expects to keep employees busy in Renton for years to come. The machinists will vote next Wednesday on Boeing’s contract offer.