980 boeing machinists union KIRO
The support for a no vote on the contract has been the most vocal as union members stand in line to cast their ballot. (KIRO Radio/Chris Sullivan)

Boeing Machinists rejecting contract speak up while casting their vote

About 20,000 Boeing machinists in the Puget Sound area are voting Wednesday on an eight-year contract extension the company says it needs to assemble the new 777x in Washington.

Some members of International Association of Machinists District 751 have called for a no vote, protesting concessions Boeing wants in pension and health benefits.

President Tom Wroblewski called it an emotional decision but said union members should consider what's best for their families.

Boeing officials have promised to build the next generation jet in Washington state if union members approve a new eight-year contract extension.

KIRO Radio's Chris Sullivan is reporting live Wednesday from the union hall, just outside the Everett factory. He said the line stretched around the building as it opened for voting.

Sullivan has been talking to Machinists, and hasn't found anyone willing to admit that they're voting yes for this contract. But he said most Machinists are predicting a razor thin margin.

Matt, a Machinist of seven years, was the closest to admitting to a yes vote - by not actually sharing how he voted.

"It's a garbage contract, but I got to believe that Boeing's not bluffing. It's probably going to pass 51-49 (percent) I guess," said Matt.

Union members say Boeing's demands for concessions on health care and pension equates to extortion.

"It is not an extension. It is a whole new contract," said one Boeing machinist who spoke with KIRO Radio on condition of anonymity via phone from the Everett plant, where she works on the 777. "It guts our contract. It leaves us no room for anything, ever."

The structures mechanic said along with elimination of the company pension plan in favor of a 401(k), workers are most angry with what amounts to just a six percent raise total over the next 10 years, while the top five executives received a 55 percent raise last year.

"This is the worst contract in the history of, since I've been here," machinist Mark, who has been with Boeing for 25 years, told Sullivan.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation passed in a special session of the Washington Legislature giving tax breaks to Boeing as part of the 777x deal. They are valued at $9 billion through 2040.

The Associated Press, KIRO Radio's Chris Sullivan, MyNorthwest.com's Josh Kerns and Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.


MyNorthwest.com, Staff report
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