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Boeing machinists end 28-day strike, take new deal

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Boeing machinists on Thursday approved a three-year contract supported by union leaders, ending a month-long strike that proved to be the second-shortest in Boeing history.

At polling sites set up in union halls from Everett to Puyallup, machinists began voting about 5 a.m. and continued in a steady stream throughout the day until voting closed at 6 p.m., union spokeswoman Connie Kelliher said.

Union representatives, calling it a rare victory for organized labor, endorsed the contract offer after Boeing management retracted several proposed takeaways and agreed to focus on issues important to the workers — mainly pensions and healthcare.

General wage increases were lower on the list of items important to the workers, Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said, adding the newer contract is similar in value and cost to Boeing than the one initially rejected by the workers.

About 17,000 Puget Sound machinists, including about 480 in Federal Way, from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 began the strike Sept. 1.

Machinists in Oregon and Kansas also participated in the vote Thursday, which ended with an 80 percent approval of the new contract, ending the union’s 28-day strike.

“I’m so proud of our members. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, and that is what finally got Boeing to do the right thing,” said Mark Blondin, president of District 751. “The overwhelming unity and solidarity of the union membership won this strike.”

Blondin also thanked Governor Christine Gregoire for helping get both sides back to the bargaining table after negotiations broke down. He said support also came from other unions.

The settlement was a milestone for unions in general, Blondin claimed.

“By standing together, our members forced Boeing to withdraw every one of their takeaway proposals,” he said. “Since the 1990s, no union in North America has held the line on healthcare and retiree medical –– costs that have risen dramatically. Our members did just that in this strike.”

Machinists rejected an earlier offer by Boeing that would have increased out-of-pocket medical expenses, would have changed the retiree medical benefit for those younger than 50 and would have eliminated the retiree medical benefit completely for new hires.

The new contract includes a 12 percent cost-of-living adjustment and two bonus payments of $3,000 each due on Dec. 1, 2006 and Dec. 1, 2007.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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