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updated: 12/11/2013 7:43 AM

Boeing official talks with Wash. machinists

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Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes met Tuesday with union leaders of the machinists who last month rejected the company's offer of a contract that would have employed Washington state workers to build the company's new 777X jet, a newspaper reported.

The discussions between Chicago-based Boeing's Ray Conner and leaders of Machinists District 751 came on deadline day for states across the country to submit their bids to build the project, The Seattle Times reported.

The Times called the meeting the first sign since the Nov. 13 rejection vote that a labor deal to produce the 777X in Washington state might still be possible. The two sides met at Boeing Commercial Airplanes headquarters in the Seattle suburb of Renton.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder confirmed that Conner met with union representatives.

"We are not in negotiations," Alder said, declining to provide details. "These are conversations."

In a statement on their website, the Machinists said the meeting was "not a formal negotiation session, but instead was a chance for both sides to give feedback. No proposals were exchanged."

"We see this as a positive sign," said Alex Pietsch, director of Gov. Jay Inslee's aerospace office. "Talking is good.

"We are hopeful this is the beginning of a continued dialogue," Pietsch added.

The machinists' union in Washington state rejected Boeing's proposed contract for the 777X, in part because it would have replaced their traditional pension with a defined-contribution savings plan.

The Chicago-based company said it would look elsewhere and gave states until Tuesday to submit proposals. Across the country, states have rushed to impress the aerospace giant with lavish incentive packages that offer property, labor deals and billions of dollars in tax breaks.

Washington state recently approved tax breaks for Boeing valued at $9 billion over the coming years and legislation to improve aerospace training programs and the permitting process.

Washington's congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday to Boeing, urging the company to build the 777X in the state, citing "miles wide and miles deep" support for aerospace manufacturing, The Times reported.

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