WASHINGTON (AP) — A contentious labor dispute between the government and Boeing Co. that spawned a national political fight likely will be settled after the company and the Machinists union reached a tentative deal on a new four-year collective bargaining agreement.
It is not immediately clear what, if any, impact the new agreement, announced Wednesday, would have on a Boeing plant in South Carolina, where the company opened a new production line for its 787 airplane.
If union members vote to approve the deal in the coming weeks, the union would inform the NLRB that it has no further grievances with Boeing.
The National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that Boeing violated labor laws by opening the South Carolina line. The agency claimed that Boeing was punishing Washington state workers for past strikes and said the company should return the work to Washington. Boeing has vigorously denied the charges, claiming it opened the South Carolina plant for valid economic reasons.
The agreement would call for the new 737 Max aircraft to be built at union facilities in Renton, Wash., said Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists Union District 751.
Wroblewski said that if union members vote to approve the deal in the coming weeks, the union would inform the NLRB that it has no further grievances with Boeing.
Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel at the labor board, called the agreement "a very significant and hopeful development."
"The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by the employees, and, if ratified, we will be in discussions with the parties about the next steps in the process," Solomon said.
The labor board brought its lawsuit at the request of the union, so if the union no longer has a dispute, the board would likely stop pursuing the case.
The case became a major political issue, with Republican presidential candidates using the issue to bash the Obama administration. While the labor board is an independent agency, it is dominated by appointees of President Barack Obama and settlement of the Boeing case removes a potentially damaging element for Obama in the 2012 campaign.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the state's congressional delegation had expressed outrage at the NLRB lawsuit, saying it threatened thousands of jobs and millions invested in the new Boeing facility in Charleston.