On Friday, after weeks of fighting to keep their pensions, Machinists Union members voted to accept the Boeing Co.’s proposed eight-year contract with a 51-percent “yes” vote.
Under the new contract, workers get a $10,000 signing bonus and money towards a 401k but give up pension and benefits.
“Our members have spoken and this is the course we’ll take,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, which represents more than 30,000 hourly workers at Boeing plants in Puget Sound.
The decision means Boeing will stop seeking alternate sites for its 777X aircraft program, the latest version of its best-selling widebody jet, and start preparations to start final assembly and wing fabrication in Puget Sound.
The vote to accept the contract came even though Wroblewski and the District 751 leadership team had unanimously recommended that union members reject Boeing’s offer, which included steep concessions on retirement and health care benefits and limits on future wage growth, a union statement said.
“All along we knew that our members wanted to build the 777X, and that it was in Boeing’s best interest to have them do it,” Wroblewski said in a statement. “We recommended that our members reject the offer because we felt that the cost was too high, in terms of our lost pensions and the thousands of dollars in additional health care costs we’ll have to pay each year.
“Now, it’s up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful. I’m confident we will do that, because as we’ve said all along, this is the most-skilled aerospace workforce in the world.”
Government officials lauded the vote.
“Tonight, Washington state secured its future as the aerospace capital of the world,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a statement. “To make that happen, the International Association of Machinists District 751 took a hard vote that demands the respect of all Washingtonians who will benefit from having Boeing build the 777X here.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine called for the state to use the momentum of the Boeing deal to move forward with funding transportation.
“For too long we have relied on band-aid solutions to patch our roads and stave off cuts to Metro bus service,” Constantine said. “The time is now, in conjunction with this Boeing agreement, to act on a statewide transportation package with local options for maintaining transit and roads.”
KING5 News reported that some machinists felt that union leadership didn’t properly educate workers about the contract and didn’t fight to delay a vote until everyone was back from the holidays.