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Machinists’ national president warns of ‘final vote’ on Boeing 777X contract

The Machinists’ national leader told union members Thursday to take seriously Boeing’s threat to build the 777X elsewhere, warning them not to expect further bargaining if they vote Jan. 3 to reject the company’s proposed contract extension.

“I am duty-bound to inform the membership this vote will be the final vote on this proposed contract,” wrote Tom Buffenbarger, international president of the union, in a message posted on the International Association of Machinists website. “The timeline for the Puget Sound area is expiring.”

The national leadership is at odds with Puget Sound union officials at District 751, who have adamantly opposed holding a vote on the contract proposal.

Buffenbarger, who ordered the balloting, did not explicitly recommend a yes vote by the 31,000 members covered by the proposed contract extension.

But the message highlighted what he said was $1 billion in improvements from the previous contract offer that Machinists rejected Nov. 13 by 2-to-1. “I believe this represents a ‘significant’ improvement worthy of the membership’s consideration,” he wrote.

The local District 751 Machinists leadership, by contrast, is denouncing the Boeing proposal as containing “massive takeaways.”

On its own website, District 751 tells members, “You need to look at the facts of the economic destruction you would have to live under for the next 11 years, without any opportunity to change any provisions of the contract.”

Buffenbarger also wrote that Friday’s vote should be “free from any coercive or disruptive circumstances” and seemed to restrict the local leadership’s participation in the tally.

“No local lodge officers other than those specifically authorized by the IAM Constitution or District Lodge business representatives are to handle any ballots other than their own,” his message said.

Boeing says it will build the planned 777X in its Puget Sound plants if the contract is approved. If not, the company says it will look at other sites in 21 states that quickly responded to its well-publicized request for proposals.

The new offer, which extends the current contract from 2016 to 2024, eliminates Boeing’s proposal to lengthen to 16-plus years, from six, the so-called “zoom” period for moving to the top pay for a particular job classification.

But it retains Boeing’s insistence on stopping accumulations in the Machinists’ longstanding pension plan in 2016 and starting a defined-contribution retirement savings plan instead.

Some Machinists who oppose the contract proposal have suggested Boeing will come back yet again with an improved offer, since there are many advantages to building the 777X in Everett rather than creating a new plant elsewhere.

Buffenbarger’s message cautioned members that the company has “serious offers and incentive packages” from other states.

“Some may believe this is a ‘fake’ play by the Company. Your union, based upon information that indicates otherwise, must take the threat seriously,” he wrote.


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