Boeing, Union Agree In Principle; NLRB Case Likely to be Dismissed

On Thursday, The Seattle Times reported that Boeing and their Washington-based machinist union had an agreement in place to bring more work to Washington and end the National Labor Relations Board case against the company:

After secret talks that began in earnest in mid-October, Boeing and the Machinists union have reached a landmark tentative agreement that would ensure the 737MAX is built in Renton and lead to settlement of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against the company.

The deal may also bring more Air Force tanker work to the Puget Sound region.

A four-year contract extension is also part of the pact, the union said at a news conference Wednesday.”

Barring the union voting down the agreement or the NLRB refusing to drop the case (both unlikely at this point), Boeing removed both an anchor around their own neck, and, a hot political issue.

Setting precedent for future labor disputes?

Even with a labor-friendly NLRB, the machinist union’s case against Boeing always seemed like more of a way to force a settlement rather than a bonafide attempt to reimagine what a “threat” to a union constituted. Still, as labor attorney Marc Bloch, a contributor for TLNT, wrote in a piece last summer, there was some serious risk for letting the case with the NLRB go forward:

Ultimately, this case and the corporate response to the pro-union philosophy of the NLRB will have a significant impact on the decision making process of corporations in determining the placement of new plants, the relocation of old ones and how such decisions are discussed with its unions.

If the case continues (and there have been many settlement discussions) the outcome will not be known for many years and may ultimately be made in a different political atmosphere. However, the current winds from the NLRB are already having a chilling effect on employers to the detriment of the economy.”

While setting an NLRB case precedent with this particular board would probably be the most harmful from a corporate viewpoint, just settling a case like this (even in terms that were generally favorable to the company) gives both unions and companies a road map to future disputes. Not many companies are going to be willing to test just how labor friendly the NLRB will be in the near future, especially in such a high stakes case like this.

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In the end, negotiations are about harnessing advantages and leverage. The machinists union knew that even a long-shot case against Boeing in front of the NLRB would push more chips to their side of the table. And the fact that a month and a half of underground negotiations went virtually undetected before a deal was reached, in the end, shows that it can be successful.

For more on this, read the full story at The Seattle Times .

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