EVERETT, Wash. - Ray Conner, head of Boeing's airliner division, met with representatives of Machinists District Lodge 751 on Tuesday afternoon - the same day that as many as 17 other states were expected to submit bids for building the 777X jet.
Late Tuesday, Boeing and the union confirmed the meeting between Conner and Union President Tom Wroblewski, along with other representatives from both sides. It is the first meeting between the two parties since November 13th, when Machinists voted by a 2 to 1 margin to turn down Boeing's initial proposal to keep the 777x here in exchange for an 8 year contract extension.
Boeing has about 1,200 workers at its Gresham plant.
Company spokesperson Doug Alder characterized the meeting as a "conversation." No negotiations were discussed.
District 751 described the meeting as "a chance for both sides to give feedback."
The news came just hours after a small group of Machinists, some of whom voted against Boeing's contract extension offer in November, is trying to push the leadership of Machinists District Lodge 751 into re-engagement with the company.
Only eight members of the group showed up for a hoped for march on the union hall in Everett. The group is opposed to the leadership's stance to not talk to Boeing before the current contract expires in 2016.
"I voted no on the last contract. But I would like to really see them negotiate and come to something. We do have the best work force here," said Everett 767 Machinist Tom Church.
The contract offer failed by a margin of 2 to 1 in mid November, after the announcement of a surprise agreement between the Machinists union and the company, in exchange for a company promise to keep 777X assembly and wing production in Everett.
But many machinists said the company wanted too much in concessions, in health care, the time it takes to progress higher pay scales for new hires, and a move away from the traditional pension plan to a 401k style plan.
Boeing and its largest union say they have no plans to re-engage with each other until the regular round of contract negotiations comes due in 2016.
But organizer Brody Bonnallie says he will continue to push, and claims he's spoken to many people in the factory who back his efforts to get the union leadership and the company to sit back down.
"It's going to happen, I know it's going to happen. I was just hoping to kind of speed things along." Bonnallie said.