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A culture of complacency at Tesoro’s Anacortes refinery led to the deadly fireball that claimed the lives of seven workers in 2010, according to federal investigators who've spent almost four years examining the causes.

The equipment that exploded in the early hours of April 2, 2010 had developed leaks that the company knew about. The carbon steel tubing of the equipment had been weakened over time by hydrogen and that had caused cracks. 

Courtesy of Meier Architecture Engineering

Southeast Washington is getting an economic boost. Two announcements made Wednesday are expected to lead to new jobs in the area. 

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is building a $10 million facility in north Richland, near the rest of the lab’s campus. The facility will house research on the power grid's reliability, renewable energy and greater energy efficiency in buildings.

AP Photo

(Corrects to clarify that the agreement the machinists passed phases out the pension over time  and replaces it with a company-funded 401(k) retirement plan.)

Boeing's Chief Executive Jim McNerney says he’s looking forward to the prospect of no strikes for the next decade by Washington state machinists. McNerney told Wall Street analysts it made the most sense to build the next version of the 777 jet in the Puget Sound region, as long as the workers accepted the company’s contract extension offer.

Machinists narrowly approved the deal that preserves job security but phases out their pension and replaces it with a 401(k) retirement plan. McNerney says his deputy, Ray Conner, is now trying to improve morale in the wake of the vote.

Camping on West Maui. / Felix Ruess

About one out of four American workers gets no paid vacation time, and the U.S. is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee that workers receive some. Now lawmakers in Olympia are considering a bill that would make Washington the first state in the country to mandate that employers provide paid vacation days.

Wally Santana / AP Photo

In the face of a steadily declining market for personal computers, Microsoft succeeded in boosting both revenue and profit in the most recent quarter, coming in ahead of analyst estimates. 

Sales climbed 14 percent to $24.5 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31, and net income rose 2.8 percent to $6.6 billion, or 78 cents a share. The consensus estimate of analysts was 69 cents a share, according to Bloomberg. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The unemployment rate in Washington state has fallen to the lowest level in five years.

New numbers for December from the state Employment Department peg the current jobless rate at 6.6 percent. The figure hasn’t dipped lower since November 2008.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The contentious Boeing contract extension offer that machinists narrowly passed earlier this month left many workers unhappy with their union leaders. This Saturday, they’ll have a chance to nominate new candidates for top positions in the union’s national headquarters. 

But the reform candidates face an uphill battle in their effort to dislodge the top leaders. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers hasn’t had a contested election for its highest jobs in more than half a century.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The National Labor Relations Board once again is being called into the middle of a thorny dispute between machinists and the Boeing Company. Could the agency find itself in as much political hot water this time as three years ago?

2011 is the year the NLRB exploded onto the national consciousness, all because the agency’s general counsel filed a complaint against Boeing over its decision to build a Dreamliner plant in South Carolina. That drew heated responses from many political conservatives.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Regional economist Dick Conway says even though we have lots of big, vibrant companies in the Puget Sound area these days, our economy still rises and falls with the fortunes of one, a certain aerospace giant.

And that's why he says it's so critical that Boeing's 777x jet will be built in Washington state after members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted narrowly to accept a contract extension. They agreed to cuts in hard-fought retirement and health benefits to preserve those jobs. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Citing health concerns and two hospital stays brought on by stress connected to the Boeing 777x contract extension proposal, the embattled local leader of the machinists' union says he'll resign at the end of the month. 

Tom Wroblewski, 59, has been president of District Lodge 751 of the machinists' union since 2007. Prior to the post, he served as a grievance coordinator as well as a business representative for the union, with assignments throughout the Puget Sound region. 

The experience of the 777X contract proposal "changed my perspective on work-life balance," Wroblewski said in a statement. "Your job should not destroy your health."

AP Photo

Boeing is confirming an incident with a battery on a Japan Airlines 787, in a reminder of the problems that grounded the plane for three months last year.

Boeing says it appears that a single battery cell "vented," or released gas. It was discovered during scheduled maintenance on the ground at Tokyo's Narita airport on Tuesday. No passengers were on board.

It’s taking longer for Pierce County to bounce back from the recession than counties to the north, such as King and Snohomish. But economists at Pacific Lutheran University expect the economy in Tacoma and the region to show some improvement this year. 

PLU economists Martin Wurm and Neal Johnson have been crunching the numbers on everything from Pierce County’s housing market to retail sales to come up with an economic forecast. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wishes states weren't in constant competition to provide financial incentives in order secure jobs from big companies.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Airport workers are urging Port of Seattle commissioners to adopt the $15 per hour minimum wage that voters in the city of SeaTac passed last November. 

The Port of Seattle, which oversees the seaport as well as Sea-Tac International Airport, argued in court late last year that it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the SeaTac minimum wage initiative. King County Judge Andrea Darvas agreed, and as a result, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and other airport workers who had been hoping for a jump in pay at the beginning of this year haven’t gotten one.

Vincent Yu / AP Photo

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says he will not leave the automaker for Microsoft and will stay at Ford at least through 2014.

Mulally is widely credited with saving Ford after being hired away from Boeing in 2006. But in recent months there have been numerous reports that he was in the running for the top job at Microsoft, where CEO Steve Ballmer has said he plans to leave the company sometime this year.

Courtesy of Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Washington.

A Hood River distillery has the top-selling brand of liquor, according to sales numbers released by the state of Oregon. But other craft distillers say those hot numbers don’t reflect their experience.

Before liquor sales were privatized in Washington state in mid-2012, small local distilleries were featured in state-owned shops there and throughout the Northwest. Now, top craft distillers say national brands are hogging the shelf space in Washington, the biggest market in the region.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Local machinists narrowly approved Boeing’s “best and final” offer that guarantees assembly of the next 777 wide-body jet and the fabrication of the plane's carbon-fiber wing for the Puget Sound region.

Some 30,000 local machinists accepted the deal with a 51-percent vote, said International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers spokesman Jim Bearden late Friday.

Ashley Gross

Several hundred Boeing machinists and supporters gathered in a Seattle union hall Thursday to urge members to reject Boeing’s contract offer.

The rally came on the eve of a crucial vote on what Boeing has called its best and final offer. Acceptance of the labor deal by some 30,000 local machinists would guarantee 777 assembly work for the Puget Sound area.

But local union leaders are urging members to reject the offer, saying the workers are asked to make concessions even though the company is having a profitable run.

AP Photo

Boeing's contract proposal to machinists in the Puget Sound region would likely increase some workers' annual base salaries to more than $100,000 in the coming years.

The offer going to a vote this week would slow the growth of machinists' wages starting in 2016, but workers would still get regular cost-of-living adjustments and an additional 1 percent raise every other year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Boeing has told local political leaders that this week's vote by Machinists will determine the fate of some jobs on the new 777X airplane.

In a press conference Monday morning, local politicians gathered in Everett to discuss the importance of approving the contract. They said Boeing executive Ray Conner told them in a meeting that the union vote will decide whether the new 777X composite wing is built in the region.

AP Photo

Local political leaders in Washington state are gathering to discuss the importance of the 777X airplane.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and others plan a press conference Monday to discuss Boeing ahead of a Friday vote by the Machinists union. Local Machinists leaders oppose the new contract offer, but Stephanson and others have urged them to approve the deal.

AP Photo

The international president of the machinists union says Boeing's revised contract offer is an improvement of more than $1 billion.

In a letter to union members, Tom Buffenbarger said the offer that workers will consider next week is a significant improvement over a contract the union rejected last month.

Cindy Hohlbein

Rex Hohlbein had been designing luxurious homes for more than two decades when his life began to shift.

He began inviting homeless people into the office of his architecture firm to warm up, use the bathroom and get a cup of coffee. Pretty soon, he found it hard to spend his days designing million-dollar homes when he was meeting so many people he found sleeping in tents or under a doorway.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Consumer activist and failed presidential candidate Ralph Nader has some words for Boeing.

In an open letter to Boeing CEO Jim McNerney on Thursday, Nader said the company's effort to squeeze worker pensions and pay is "unseemly." He cited McNerney's salary as one reason and the tax advantages the company is receiving as another.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated voting will take place on Jan. 3. However, according to a spokesman for the union's international headquarters, the exact date is still being finalized.

Local Boeing machinists will have a chance to vote on the company's "best and final" offer, the acceptance of which would guarantee assembly of the next 777 wide-body jet and the fabrication of the plane's carbon-fiber wing for the Puget Sound region.  

Associated Press

Boeing says it has begun telling states whether they're still in the running to build its new 777X.

Boeing has gotten proposals from 22 states covering 54 locations that all want to build the plane. Boeing says it is narrowing the list down and is telling each location its status in the process. Boeing isn't releasing the list publicly.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says he stands by the decision to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks to Boeing in an effort to win the 777X. But in comments made Thursday, he made it clear he doesn’t like playing the corporate tax subsidy game. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Some lawmakers say they didn't receive campaign contributions from Boeing until after voting on a tax break for the company.

Boeing's political committee had reported in records to the state Public Disclosure Commission that it gave the maximum donation of $900 to seven lawmakers a few days before the Legislature approved tax incentives valued at some $9 billion.

Ashley Gross

Tempers are running high among Boeing machinists as the company evaluates potential sites to build the next 777 jet. That became evident at a small rally outside the machinists' union hall in Everett Wednesday. 

Machinists who want to push their union leaders to let them vote on the company's last contract offer organized the rally and said about 80 people would show up. But they only drew about 40. That group marched to the union hall from the company's Everett factory chanting "Give us a voice!" About  a dozen counter-protesters arrived, yelling, "We already voted!"

The rally turned into a shouting match, with the two sides arguing about things like whether a 401(k) is a good retirement plan. One shouted that he suspected voter fraud in the union's November vote over Boeing's labor proposal.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A Boeing worker in Renton has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the machinists union.

Timothy Limestall says local leaders of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers failed to provide enough information about Boeing’s contract extension offer that members voted on last month.