Boeing machinists rally against contract offer

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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SEATTLE - Chanting "Vote No!," hundreds of Boeing machinists rallied at union headquarters late Thursday afternoon in advance of a crucial vote on the Boeing Co.'s contract offer. The offer includes concessions on pensions and medical costs, but the company says a "yes" vote would guarantee that construction of the 777X and its new carbon fiber wing will be done in Washington state. Machinist union headquarters in Washington, D.C., is urging approval of the contract, but local union leaders have denounced its cuts to pensions and medical benefits.

"We built this company!" These jobs we've earned!" yelled machinists at the rally.

Boeing says Friday's vote is the last chance for Machinists to say yes to the company's offer. "You know it's a pretty scary thing for everyone, but you know you got to stand for something or you will fall for anything," said Ken Malone, who works on the 777 and is voting against the Boeing offer.

The vote is critical not only for the machinists, but for the economy of the state. Washington has 92,000 direct aerospace jobs, in 2011; exports were equal to $27 billion.

Boeing says it will build the new carbon-fiber-wing plane elsewhere if machinists don't accept their offer. It has been last definitive about moving the 777X assembly line. But the new plant to make the carbon fiber wing is considered to be the most important prize. "The composite wing won't be built here in Washington state, we won't be getting that expertise for future Boeing airplanes," says aviation analyst Scott Hamilton of the Leeham Company.

Machinists will begin voting in person at 5 Friday morning. Those on vacation will be able to vote online.

"If we give now, when are they going to stop taking," said 777 machinist Doug Falkenhagen, "I think the feeling of a lot of people is, 'If you think you can build it someplace else, then you can do that and you can run this company into the ground, but you can do it without me,'" he said.