Machinists To Vote On Boeing's Latest Contract Offer

Boeing machinists are set to vote Friday on whether to accept a slightly-revised offer that union members recently rejected. Union leaders say they want to preserve pay and benefits. But they fear if machinists don't accept the offer, Boeing may move production of the 777X elsewhere.

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And a vote takes place today that could have a major impact on the economy in and around Seattle. The giant airplane maker Boeing is threatening to move thousands of jobs away from the Seattle region unless 30,000 unionized Boeing workers vote to accept cuts to retirement and health benefits.

Ashley Gross of member station KPLU has the story.

ASHLEY GROSS, BYLINE: At issue is where Boeing will build the next version of its long-haul jet, the Triple Seven. The company would like to build the plane in the Seattle area and made an offer to union members in November, but they turned that down. Boeing has now sweetened its offer, but still wants workers to accept a pension freeze in 2016.

Paul Veltkamp has worked for Boeing for 17 years and plans to vote no.

PAUL VELTKAMP: This contract is a bad contract for us. It takes away things that we've been fighting for years.

ELIJAH CRAIG: I know that they've fought for us, and I'm glad that they have.

GROSS: Elijah Craig has worked for Boeing for about three years. He says he's grateful to machinists like Veltkamp who have gone on strike before to preserve benefits. But Craig says he wants long-term job security.

CRAIG: The culture of business is changing and I think that there's concessions we have to make.

GROSS: The company's been evaluating proposals from 22 states that want to win thousands of aerospace jobs. Boeing says it needs to keep costs low because airlines are demanding deep discounts. But workers in Seattle say, if that's the case, they would like to see CEO Jim McNerney cut his own pay. In 2012, his compensation rose 20 percent to more than $27 million.

For NPR News, I'm Ashley Gross in Seattle.

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