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Shouting Machinists Disagree Over Whether To Vote on Boeing's Latest Offer

Tempers are running high among Boeing machinists as the company evaluates potential sites to build the next 777 jet. That became evident at a small rally outside the machinists' union hall in Everett Wednesday. 

Machinists who want to push their union leaders to let them vote on the company's last contract offer organized the rally and said about 80 people would show up. But they only drew about 40. That group marched to the union hall from the company's Everett factory chanting "Give us a voice!" About  a dozen counter-protesters arrived, yelling, "We already voted!"

The rally turned into a shouting match, with the two sides arguing about things like whether a 401(k) is a good retirement plan. One shouted that he suspected voter fraud in the union's November vote over Boeing's labor proposal.

Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers tried last week to strike a deal to build the plane  in Washington state. But those talks broke down when union leaders refused to recommend acceptance of the deal they said asked for too many concessions on retirement, health benefits and wages. 

Organizer and 767 mechanic Paul Fritzler said he was a bit disappointed in the turnout, but said there's a lot of intimidation from other members of the union.

"This is not about how to vote but about our right to vote," Fritzler said. "I would like to urge our leaders at Boeing and the union to reach an agreement that both parties will be satisfied with that assures the 777X be built here in Washington."

But some machinists said Boeing's latest offer, which the company called its best and final, is too similar to the one union members rejected last month

"I just think we deserve better than what the company's offering us, and I'm trying to help educate the yes voters on how to negotiate properly. You don't show your fears and tell everybody you're scared when you're trying to negotiate a contract," said James White, a machinist of 17 years who came to the rally dressed as Captain America. 

After local machinists rejected the initial offer last month, Boeing sought bids from other states for the 777X assembly work. The company has received bids from 22 states, and is working to narrow down the list to a handful of finalists. 

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.