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Boeing Machinists Vote on Controversial Labor Offer

Ashley Gross

It's decision day for some 30,000 Boeing machinists who are voting on a controversial eight-year labor proposal.

Boeing told the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 751 its members need to accept the contract extension in order to ensure the next wide-body 777X jet is built in Washington state.

But some machinists like Robley Evans said they planned to reject the offer under which the company will freeze employee pensions in 2016 and switch to a 401(k)-type retirement plan.

“You can’t predict those 401(k)s and what they’re going to do. I’ve seen a lot of people in 2008 lose their 401(k)s. They dwindled to nothing,” Evans said.

In the days leading up to the vote, machinists have voiced their concerns and held rallies in protest of the offer, which they say negates years of negotiations.

University of Puget Sound Professor Leon Gurnberg said an eight-year contract is unheard of in collective bargaining, and Boeing is asking machinists to make "amazing concessions."

"If a local as strong as the machinists were with a company that’s doing as reasonably well as Boeing is, if these concessions go through, then, in a sense, no labor local is safe," he said. 

Boeing officials called the offer market-leading, and said the company will boost 401(k) contributions to ease the transition. Company officials said they’re facing fierce competition from Airbus and need to take steps to keep their planes affordable.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session to pass tax incentives in a bid to satisfy Boeing. In just three days, state lawmakers extended aerospace tax breaks valued at $9 billion until 2040. 

Union members will be voting on the contract extension until 6 p.m. The union says it will report the results after 9 p.m.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.