Boeing Machinists Accept Contract By Slim Margin
Boeing machinists voted Friday to accept a slightly revised offer that union rank-and-file rejected in the fall. Union leaders say they want to preserve pay and benefits, but they feared if machinists didn't accept the offer, Boeing would consider moving production of the 777X elsewhere.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Boeing machinists have voted to accept a new contract. That means construction of Boeing's next generation long-haul jet will stay in Seattle. Ashley Gross of member station KPLU reports.
ASHLEY GROSS, BYLINE: The whole state of Washington has been waiting to find out what Boeing's 30,000 machinists would decide to do. The aerospace giant is the state's biggest private sector employer. That means each Boeing job has a ripple effect that benefits the whole economy. Boeing machinist Nancy Browning kept that in mind as she voted yes.
NANCY BROWNING: It doesn't just impact us Boeing workers. It impacts everywhere.
GROSS: Fifty-one percent of machinists voted to accept. That shows just how divided the union has been. In November, the workers voted 2 to 1 to reject an earlier offer. Then Boeing upped the pressure and asked states across the country to compete for the wide-body, triple seven project.
JIM LEVITT: Boeing's strategy really will bring an end to any serious collective bargaining.
GROSS: Jim Levitt has worked as a Boeing machinist for 35 years. He voted no and says he's dismayed that the company pushed this extension at a time when the machinists have little leverage.
LEVITT: We had three more years left on our contract and they came with demanding major changes in a contract when we had no ability to strike.
GROSS: The extension means Boeing workers have agreed to not go on strike for the next decade. It also means the defined benefit pension will be phased out and replaced with a defined contribution 401(k) retirement plan. Washington Governor Jay Inslee says he's glad the work will stay in the state, but he acknowledged it was a hard choice.
GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: They had jobs on one hand and concessions of things that these folks have fought for for decades on the other. That's an extremely difficult decision, and a position that they were put in.
GROSS: In a statement, Boeing cheered the machinists' vote and said it will sustain thousands of jobs for years to come. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Gross in Seattle.
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