Striking Boeing workers accept contract

By a 74 percent majority, striking members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted Saturday to accept a new four-year contract from Boeing, ending their walkout that began Sept. 6.

The approximately 27,000 union members, including about 5,000 based in the south King County area, are scheduled to return to work by next week.

They’ll receive a 15 percent pay raise over four years in the new agreement, which also will hold down healthcare costs and ease some outsourcing of work. Those were among the issues in contract negotiations.

The union agreed to guarantee at least four years without a strike by its members.

“We’re looking forward to having our team back together to resume the work of building airplanes for our customers,” said Scott Carson, president of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division. “This new contract addresses the union’s job security issues while enabling Boeing to retain the flexibility needed to run the business. It rewards employees for their contribution to our success with industry-leading pay and benefits and allows us to remain competitive.”

The union members’ return to work was to begin as early as Sunday (for third-shift employees) and today (first and second shifts). Members have until the beginning of their shifts on Nov. 10 to be back on the job, according to the union.

The strike “delivered what few Americans have – economic certainty and quality benefits for the next four years,” said Tom Wroblewski, the union’s District 751 president. He said the members’ “solidarity brought Boeing back to the table and made this company address (their) issues. After 57 days of striking, we have gained important and substantial improvements over the company’s offer that was rejected on Sept. 3.”

Another union official, Mark Blondin, said the agreement “recognizes the need to act with foresight to protect the next generation of aerospace jobs. These members helped make Boeing the company it is today, and they have every right to be a part of its future.”

Among the job-security gains, the union reasserted its jurisdiction over the scope of work of union-represented jobs that were lost in the 2002 contract. The union members’ share of medical costs will remain unchanged from 2002 through 2012. In addition to the many monetary gains achieved in the new contract, the takeaway language in the company’s Sept. 3 proposal was withdrawn – retiree medical is preserved, survivor benefits are returned, reinstatement of seniority lost due to layoff is returned, promotional rights restored and the list goes on, according to IAM.

Besides Washington, the union members work in Oregon, Kansas and California.