Wash. Union Narrowly Agrees To Boeing's 777X Contract

After months of tension, a Washington union of Boeing workers has agreed to accept benefit cuts as part of a new contract with the state.

Wash. Union Narrowly Agrees To Boeing's 777X Contract
The Seattle Times / Dean Rutz

After a tense standoff, aviation giant Boeing eked out a victory over its labor union in Washington state. The company just signed an eight-year contract with the union that will keep the company in Washington at the expense of some prized employee benefits.

A spokesman for the International Association of Machinists District 751 announced late Friday union members had approved a controversial new contract with the aviation company by a slim 51-49 percent vote. (Via Al Jazeera)

"No member liked this vote or the position we were put in by the company, nor was it an easy vote for anyone to cast. ... Our goal in the coming years will be to ensure that Boeing lives up to its commitments." (Via The Seattle Times)

The dispute centered around Boeing's new 777X model jet, which the company planned to assemble at its established manufacturing plants in Washington. The new contract would keep tens of thousands of jobs in the state for at least eight years.

Washington state officials were eager to seal the deal with Boeing. In order to secure this deal, Gov. Jay Inslee pushed a bill through the state legislature last November granting Boeing almost $9 billion in subsidies through 2040. (Via The New York Times)

But workers were unhappy with Boeing's new contract, which clamped down on many traditional benefits and replaced a guaranteed pension with a more volatile 401(k) retirement plan. Union workers rejected an earlier version of the contract in November by a 2-to-1 margin. (Via KHQ-TV)

The company did respond to the union's complaints by sweetening the deal somewhat, but it also threatened to take its business elsewhere. 

Boeing began soliciting bids from other states immediately after the rejection, and about 22 other states jumped at the opportunity. Facing the loss of an estimated 20,000 jobs and more than $20 billion in economic activity, state officials began pressuring the machinists to accept the revised contract. (Via Fox News, Bloomberg)

The union's ultimate decision prompted some emotional reactions from those who voted against the measure.

"We voted this contract down. We never should have been able to vote on this. This has never happened in our union, ever, ever." 


"I don't know if we'll recover from this. I have no idea if we'll ever be able to recover." (Via KING)

But Gov. Inslee hailed the vote Saturday as a tough decision that would ultimately secure Washington's economic future.

"I respect all of them, no matter which way they voted. But ultimately, obviously, people had to realize there was an economic reality that these jobs could go elsewhere." (Via NWCN)

The new contract prevents the machinist's union from striking against Boeing until 2024.