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Machinists voting on contract extension; there's anger in the ranks

A steady stream of Boeing Machinists was voting Wednesday at their union hall on Burnett Avenue in Renton on a new contract between their union and Boeing that the company says is necessary if it
A steady stream of Boeing Machinists was voting Wednesday at their union hall on Burnett Avenue in Renton on a new contract between their union and Boeing that the company says is necessary if it's to build the next 777 in the Puget Sound region.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

Boeing Machinists were voting Wednesday on a controversial contract between their union and The Boeing Co. the company says is essential if it's to build the next version of the 777 in the Puget Sound region.

About 31,000 Machinists are voting on the contract in the Puget Sound region.

Members of International Association of Machinists, District 251, were voting on the long-term contract extension at union halls across the region today. Updates on the voting are available on the union website, as well as details of the contract.

In Renton, Machinists were voting until 6 p.m. at the Carpenters Hall on Burnett Avenue North, within view and walking distance of Boeing's 737 plant.

After voting, many union members stood in small groups, visiting. Few were willing to talk about the contract or their vote.

Bob Merritt of Kent, a veteran Machinist at the 737 production plant, says workers on the shop floor are "pretty angry" and expressing that with a no vote.

"So far the people who have actually come down and voted, they sound and appear to be very against the contract offer with their no vote," he said late Wednesday morning.

"On the shop floor they are pretty angry that we are once again a company that tells us all week, all month, all year long that we are a very important cog in the wheel. We are a family. We are part of the greatest aviation team in history," he said.

But when it comes to contract time, he said, "they treat us like garbage."

Part of that anger centers on retirement packages paid to top Boeing executives.

"They can't take things away from us, while the upper echelon at Boeing continue to boost their retirement savings up, up, up," he said.

Members don't care if Boeing CEO James McNerney gets $2 million a month in retirement, he said. "Just don't ask me to cut my medical benefits to pay for it," he said.

"That is what most of the people feel," he said.

Local, state and federal elected leaders have urged the Machinists to approve the contract as a way to preserve and grow thousands of jobs in Washington state and keep the Puget Sound region a center of airplane production in the world.

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