September 2, 2005
Boeing Machinists Vote to Strike

SEATTLE, Sept. 1 (AP) - Machinists at the Boeing Company voted Thursday to strike as union members overwhelmingly rejected a three-year contract proposal that their leaders had called "insulting."

Union members voted 86 percent in favor of a strike to begin at 12:01 a.m. local time Friday. Under union rules, the contract would have been automatically ratified - and workers would have stayed on the job - unless two-thirds of the union members voted to strike.

The strike will affect about 18,400 machinists who assemble Boeing's commercial airplanes and some key components in the Seattle area, in Gresham, Ore., and in Wichita, Kan.

Company officials said earlier in the week that a strike would force the company to slowly shut down commercial airplane production.

Leaders of the Machinists Lodge 751 in Seattle had urged its members to "reject this insulting Boeing proposal," saying it fell short on major issues including pension payments and increased health care costs. District Lodge 751 is negotiating for employees in all three states, although some terms differ based on location.

Boeing, based in Chicago, has defended its retirement proposal as one of the best in the industry, and the company said that despite some medical cost increases it would continue to shoulder the bulk of workers' health care costs.

Workers represented in the talks now receive an average of $59,000 a year. The company had said they would earn about $62,500 a year by the end of the new contract, excluding overtime and other payouts.

In addition to increases in workers' health care costs, the union was also critical of a proposal to cut retiree medical benefits for those hired after July 2006, with the exception of laid-off workers who are recalled.

The union last went on strike in 1995, when workers walked out for 69 days.


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