SEATTLE (KING) - Boeing machinists have voted to approve Boeing's latest eight-year contract proposal, securing assembly of the company's new 777X airplane in Washington state.
Thousands of union members cast their ballots – some waiting in line for hours outside of the union hall in Everett - in Friday's crucial vote.
Local politicians had urged the machinists to approve Boeing's proposal, saying the deal was necessary to support Puget Sound region's economic future. Boeing has been exploring the prospect of building the 777X elsewhere, a move that could trigger a steady exodus of aerospace jobs from a region where Boeing was founded.
Local union officials, however, urged their 30,000 members to oppose Boeing's latest offer, arguing that the proposal surrenders too much at a time of company profitability. They opposed taking a vote at all, but were overruled by national leaders in the Machinists union.
Boeing had offered to keep the 777X in the region, but sought two big deals: An extension of tax breaks all the way to 2040 and a new contract with the Machinists union that would move workers out of a traditional pension and into a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan.
In November, state lawmakers swiftly approved the tax benefits—valued at some $9 billion—but the Machinists union rejected a proposed contract shortly afterward. After the initial rejection, Boeing immediately began soliciting bids from other states interested in the 777X work. The company said it received submissions for 54 locations in 22 states.
Boeing then improved its offer since the last vote by machinists. An initial plan to slow the rate that workers move up the pay scale was tossed, and the company also offered an additional $5,000 signing bonus and improved dental coverage.
Opponents of the contract opposed the idea of freezing the pension and moving workers to a defined-contribution savings plan. They also decried increased health care expenses and slower wage growth.
However, some machinists would likely see their base salaries rise above $100,000 if the deal passed.
Production of Boeing's 777X would likely bring thousands of well-paying jobs to the region. The plane is a new iteration of its strong-selling 777, and the company recently received orders for 225 new 777X planes from three airlines at the Dubai Airshow.
Boeing has said the 777X is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.