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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.

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