Boeing machinists OK contract tied to 777X

By Manuel Valdes

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 4 2014 2:41 p.m. MST

"I know well this decision wasn't easy for any of the Machinists or their families, and I know that many of those men and women decided Boeing's latest offer was still unacceptable," Murray added. "Their concerns about income and retirement security for current and future generations of aerospace workers - and all American workers - are legitimate."

Bearden, speaking in place of District 751 President Tom Wroblewski, who has been ill, said Boeing production workers "faced tremendous pressure from every source imaginable." He took a dig at "the politicians and the media, and others, who truly didn't have a right to get into our businesses, were aligned against us and did their best to influence our folks' votes."

Machinists International President Tom Buffenbarger, who forced the issue to a vote over the objections of local union leaders, said in a statement that "the impact of this agreement extends far beyond IAM members who voted today.

"For decades to come, the entire region will benefit from the economic activity and technological innovations that will accompany" the jet production.

Washington state has always been the most natural place for Boeing Co. to build the 777X, since most of the company's production is still done in the Puget Sound area. Chicago-based Boeing offered to keep the 777X in the region but sought two big deals: An extension of tax breaks all the way to 2040 and a new contract with the Machinists union that would transition workers away from traditional pensions.

In November, state lawmakers swiftly approved the tax benefits — valued at some $9 billion — but the Machinists rejected a proposed contract shortly afterward. After the initial contract rejection, Boeing immediately began soliciting bids from other states. The company said it received submissions for 54 locations in 22 states.

The competition has underscored Boeing's commanding bargaining position in an economy where top-notch manufacturing jobs remain scarce and elected officials feel obligated to aggressively pursue such opportunities.

Boeing improved its offer after the last vote by machinists. An initial plan to slow the rate that workers move up the pay scale was tossed while the company also offered $5,000 in additional bonus money and improved dental coverage.

In addition to the pension issue, opponents decried increased health care expenses and slower wage growth. However, some machinists will likely see their base salaries rise above $100,000 under the new agreement.

Boeing began offering the 777X in May, and company officials have said they needed to move swiftly to decide where the plane will be built.

The company recently received orders for 225 new 777X planes from three airlines at the Dubai Airshow.

Boeing has said the 777X is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.

Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Seattle and photographer Elaine Thompson in Everett contributed to this report.

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