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'Yes!' say Boeing machinists to contract; 737-MAX goes to Renton

Boeing machinist union members said 'Yes' by 74 percent to a new four-year contract – hammered out in secret – that will bring jobs to build the newest version of Boeing's 737 to Renton.

The yes vote begins a new era for the aerospace company and its most contentious union, ushered in also by the union's promise to drop a complaint it filed with the National Labor Relations Board. That complaint has been the subject of Congressional hearings and hundreds of news stories around the world.

The new contract provides for 2 percent wage increases, and a new incentive pay program for good performance, a ratification bonus of $5,000 for each member and improvements in the pension program. It also promises that Boeing will build its new version of the 737 in Renton.

"This contract will help secure a better future for our employees, our customers, our communities and our company," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Commercial Airplanes, in a press release. "It reflects an effort on the part of the company and the union to find a better way to work together and achieve common ground. It's a balanced agreement that makes us more competitive and ensures that the 737 --the best single-aisle airplane in the world -- continues to be built by the people who know how to do it best."

The NLRB filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that Boeing violated labor laws by opening a new production line for its 787 Dreamliner airplane in South Carolina. The new deal will end the dispute.

Several union members bitter over the decision to open the South Carolina plant said they hoped the deal marked the beginning of a warmer relationship with the company.

"It's been a rough ride the last 25 years," said Robley Evans, a forklift driver and union official. "To think about having five years of labor peace and not the standard stuff we go through, it's good. We're hopeful this is the new way of negotiating."

Building the MAX

In the deal, the 737 MAX will be built in Renton, where 737s are currently assembled.

Boeing announced the 737 MAX in August. It will have new engines to improve fuel efficiency and compete with the Airbus A320neo. Boeing did not announce where the 737 MAX would be assembled. The state of Washington launched a campaign to retain jobs.

Boeing has more than 80,000 employees in Washington, mostly at the Renton factory and the widebody factory in Everett.

Dozens of union members erupted in applause and cheers Wednesday night as Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District Lodge 751, announced that 74 percent of voting members chose to approve the deal.

The union represents 28,000 workers in Washington, Oregon and Kansas.

Before the vote result was announced, union member Charles Fromong said, "The only bad outcome tonight is if we don't vote in strong numbers. That would be a bad thing. I want the membership to be strong and stick together, that way the company knows we're united."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.