Boeing Machinists clash over 777x contract vote

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by Associated Press and GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 Aviation Specialist

NWCN.com

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 18 at 8:37 PM

EVERETT, Wash. -- A small rally Wednesday led by Machinists calling for a vote on Boeing’s latest contract proposal ended with an animated debate in front of the union hall.

Chanting “give us a vote” and holding signs, about three dozen people marched from Boeing Co.’s campus to the local union hall in Everett. The rally came six days after local union leaders said the company’s offer was too similar to one that workers rejected last month.

“We just wanted to be heard,” said James Christofferson, who marched with the pro-vote crowd. “We think they made enough significant changes to the contract that it would change the way it went last time.”

A handful of other union workers who oppose a new vote also gathered at the hall. The two sides engaged in an animated debate about whether a vote should happen.

Aaron Powell was one of the men who met the rallying group. He said that despite the small number of members rallying, they can still create a rift within the union.

Powell said he understands the group’s fear of Boeing potentially leaving the region, but he said the union is stronger if the membership remains together.

“We don’t vote on every single offer,” he said. “This wasn’t even an offer. It was just a question.”

Boeing says its last offer from a week ago Thursday is still on the table. Union leaders say there's nothing to vote on as most of the offer is still identical to one rejected by Machinists two to one on November 13. They say they can't recommend a yes vote on the contract as demanded  by the company.

Boeing has offered to build much of the new 777X airplane in the Puget Sound area, but the company wants to get workers off traditional pension plans, replacing the benefit with a defined-contribution savings plan.

Boeing says the new offer does contain more significant changes: removing a demand that new hires spend decades reaching top wage scales instead of just six years, boosting bonuses by $5,000 payable in the year 2020 and extending language to keep the 737-MAX in Renton until the year 2024.

The company said it is considering moving production of the plane to another state if it can’t reach a deal with Machinists in Washington.

The union rejected Boeing’s initial proposal by a 3-to-1 margin.

“We’re pretty sure the pensions are going away anyways,” Christofferson said. “We just kind of feel like we don’t have a choice. We at least we want to be able to vote. I don’t care if they vote yes or no. At least we get to tell the company and union how we feel.”
 

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