Local Machinists Narrowly Approve Boeing's Best And Final Offer For 777X Work

Jan 3, 2014

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.

Cheers And Jeers

Gov. Jay Inslee thanked union members for making "a very difficult decision" and helping "show the world that we can design our own future."

"I have the highest respect for every machinist, however they voted tonight, because I know they did what they felt was right," the governor said. "It’s been a long road and a hard road … but now is the time to come together and build this airplane."

Not all machinists were pleased, however. Jim Levitt, a machinist of 35 years who voted to reject the deal, called the results “a setback for not only Boeing workers but American workers as a whole.”

“We're losing a defined benefit pension. We were one of the last major industrial unions that had one,” Levitt said. "This whole process has weakened our union because of the real misleadership exhibited by the international [union leaders] basically acting as spokespeople for Boeing and putting up no fight whatsoever."

Mitch Rose, a third-generation Boeing worker, said he voted to reject the deal, which took away “what my grandfather and father have fought for.”

“I’ve always been taught to fight on your feet, not to live on your knees, and this is what the contract’s doing," he said. 

A Turbulent Path To The Vote

Friday's decision followed months of tension between two sides that culminated with Boeing launching a nationwide search for a new site for the assembly work.

Local machinists rejected a previous eight-year offer in November. But both sides returned to the negotiating table after Boeing received bids from 22 states, including Washington, for the 777X assembly work.

Boeing’s latest offer, which included an additional $5,000 bonus, stemmed from those negotiations. But talks stalled again when local union leaders refused to recommend acceptance of the deal to their members, saying it was too similar to the one members had already rejected.

But national union leaders stepped in and pushed the issue to a vote despite local leaders’ sentiments.

On the eve of the crucial vote, local union leaders urged members to reject the offer, saying the workers are being asked to make concessions even though the company is having a profitable run. 

Details Of The Offer

The offer Boeing made on Dec. 12 adds an extra $5,000 bonus that workers would get in 2020 and preserves the current rate at which workers move up the pay scale. Under the earlier contract that members rejected, it would have taken many more years for workers to reach the top wage level.

But the offer also freezes worker pensions in 2016 and switches to a 401(k)-type retirement plan, and boosts matching contributions for several years to compensate.