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Boeing machinists’ bonuses may give economy boost

The traditionally slow post-Christmas retail environment could see a $200-million-plus boost this year in the Puget Sound area as Boeing distributes $10,000 contract-signing bonuses to Machinists Union members late this month.

Those bonuses are part of a deal union members approved last week by a 51 percent majority. Union members gave their endorsement to a new, eight-year contract with the aerospace company. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents some 30,000 Boeing workers in the Puget Sound area.

That new contract secured Boeing’s promise to build its new 777X airliner and that airliner’s composite wings in Washington.

Those workers will receive the signing bonus as part of their paychecks during the week of Jan. 25.

Taxes will be withheld from the bonus payment, but the potential impact could be huge nonetheless.

The late January payment may be the largest ever for so many Boeing workers. In the past Boeing has paid signing bonuses when new contracts were approved, but none of this magnitude. And the company periodically makes one-time performance payments to workers based on how well the company has performed versus standards set by its board of directors. None has been this large.

The eight-year contract also includes an additional $5,000 payment, but that payment won’t be made until January 2020.

To secure the bonus payments, Boeing machinists made considerable sacrifices, freezing their defined benefit pension plans and moving to a defined contribution plan. The new contract includes lean raises during the contract term and higher health care premiums paid by workers.

Some union members are still trying to get last week’s vote overturned or redone.

The local’s E unit Tuesday voted to ask the union’s international headquarters to schedule an audit of the votes in last Friday’s election and to set a new vote on the contract.

Another local unit is expected to ask the international for an audit and a revote later this week, and a demonstration is being called by some members outside the union’s Everett hall.

But the international says it doesn’t intend to schedule a third vote or a recount. The contract was approved by a 600-vote margin.

Union headquarters spokesman Frank Larkin said Wednesday that last week’s vote was counted and compiled by Local 751 members.

To schedule a new vote or a recount, said Larkin, would be disrespectful to local members who tallied and observed last week’s results.

Disagreeing with the result of a vote, he said, is not a good reason to revisit the subject a third time.