Boeing machinists vote on contract crucial to 777X jetliner

Fri Jan 3, 2014 12:20pm EST
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By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some 31,000 Boeing machinists vote on Friday on a crucial labor contract that affects the location of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity.

If the workers accept the deal, Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) would build its new 777X jetliner and wings in the Seattle area, where Boeing has built aircraft for more than 90 years.

If they reject it, Boeing says it will make the wings and possibly the whole plane, elsewhere, marking a major employment and economic loss for Washington state.

Boeing says it has received offers from 22 states interested in hosting a new factory to build the successor to its popular 777 widebody jet.

The vote has opened deep rifts between the local International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which opposes the contract, and its Washington leadership, which forced a vote on the proposal. It has also revealed cleavages between younger workers open to the deal and older workers dead set against it.

In November, two-thirds of machinists voted against a similar offer that would have replaced their traditional defined-benefit pension with a 401(k)-style savings plan, one of two retirement plans the workers receive.

The union's national leadership negotiated that deal, which would have extended the contract eight years beyond its current expiration in 2016. But local leaders opposed it, saying the take-aways were too great.

Now, the same dynamic is playing out again. Boeing has sweetened the offer with a larger signing bonus and other changes. But the deal still eliminates the pension, and local union leaders have urged members to reject it.   Continued...

Union members enter the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 751 headquarters during a union vote on Boeing's contract with the machinists for production of the 777X jetliner in Seattle, Washington January 3, 2014. REUTERS/David Ryder