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Originally published August 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 3, 2008 at 10:47 AM

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Machinists union calls for Boeing strike

About 7,000 Machinists marched in solidarity at Boeing's wide-body jet plant in Everett on Friday morning, a large banner, hanging from...

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing's final offerto its Machinists

Boeing estimates that, on average, Machinists would receive $34,000 in extra compensation over three years, compared with the current contract.

Key points of the contract offer:

General wages: Raises of 5, 3 and 3 percent in successive years, for a total 11 percent over the life of the contract. The current cost-of-living-adjustment formula, which adds about half the inflation rate, would be unchanged.

Minimum wages: Raised $2.28. This would affect new and recent hires.

Pension: A basic monthly pension of $80 per year of service, up from $70 in the current contract. (Separately, Boeing matches 50 cents per dollar of employee contributions up to 8 percent in a 401(k) savings plan.)

Ratification bonus: $2,500 paid if a majority of Machinists voting Wednesday say yes to the contract.

2008 lump-sum bonus: The greater of either $2,500 or 6 percent of gross pay including overtime; Boeing estimates this is worth about $3,900 on average.

New incentive-pay plan: Machinists in 2010 would join a plan that offers 10 days' extra pay for reaching profit and productivity targets and up to 20 days' pay for exceeding them.

Medical-plan changes: In the traditional plan with zero monthly premium, out-of-pocket maximums would rise 50 percent for families. Monthly premiums for the HMO plan would drop 24 percent. Premiums in a third plan would increase 22 percent.

Take-away dropped: The company withdrew its proposal to end early-retirement benefits for future hires.

Source: Boeing

How the contractvote works

Machinists union members will receive two ballots — blue and red — when they vote Wednesday on Boeing's contract offer.

Blue: A vote on the contract proposal. It takes 50 percent

of the members voting to approve the contract.

Red: A vote on whether to strike if the contract is rejected. Approving a strike takes a two-thirds vote. Anything shy of that and the contract offer takes effect.

History: Machinists voted to strike in 2005, leading to a one-month walkout. A majority voted against the company offer in 2002, but only 61 percent voted to strike.

About 7,000 Machinists marched in solidarity at Boeing's wide-body jet plant in Everett on Friday morning, a large banner, hanging from a balcony, emblazoned with just one word: "Strike!"

Workers at the rally declared their rejection of the company's Thursday contract offer with chants of "Paint the Lines," a reference to the green perimeter lines that Boeing security traditionally has painted on sidewalks around the plants to mark where strike pickets cannot cross.

Within an hour of the rally's end, the leadership of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) had heard enough from the rank-and-file to make a decision.

"It's official," Mark Blondin, IAM national aerospace coordinator, said in a phone interview. "We are recommending to reject the contract and to vote to strike."

Union members will vote on the contract offer Wednesday. If two-thirds of voters heed Blondin's recommendation, a strike will begin at midnight.

Some 26,000 of the affected workers are in the Puget Sound region, with an additional 1,500 in Portland and about 800 at the defense-aircraft modification plant in Wichita, Kan.

If the IAM strikes, Boeing engineers and other non-Machinists would continue to work. But all production would shut down at the jet-assembly plants in Everett and Renton and at the parts plants in Auburn and Frederickson. Most fabrication and production work at the military-aircraft and technology-research centers in Seattle also would cease.

Assembly work on the already much-delayed 787 Dreamliner program would be suspended for as long as a strike lasts. The first Dreamliner presently is due to fly in November.

At a news conference at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel, the venue for the intensive talks of the past week, IAM District President Tom Wroblewski said he remains ready to talk right up to the contract deadline Wednesday. He said he'd welcome the help of the federal mediator.

"We stand ready to meet at any time," Wroblewski said.

But Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the offer put to the union Thursday is final. Boeing is willing to clarify and explain its terms, but won't improve them before the strike vote.

Healy said the company still hopes for a positive vote after union members study the contract carefully and use a benefits calculator on the company's Web site to work out the precise financial impact on each individual's family circumstances.

"We think they will see the value," Healy said.

Under the current contract, Machinists earn an average base pay of $54,000 a year. With overtime, the average is $65,000.

At the end of the three-year contract, the average base pay would increase to $65,000, and with overtime the figure would be $77,000, according to Boeing.

Over the three years, Boeing estimates that an average Machinist would receive $34,000 more in total pay, compared with the current contract.

Wroblewski cited a long list of reasons for rejecting the offer, including the lack of job-security commitments, increases in medical-plan costs, and pay and pension increases that didn't meet union members' expectations.

Union officials had gone over the contract offer with a fine-tooth comb. A document on the medical-plan deficiencies listed details such as no increase in coverage for prescription lenses, and a reduction in dental coverage from three annual cleanings to two.

Machinists particularly upset with the contract offer included relatively new hires, who are low on the company wage ladder. The proposed contract would give them smaller percentage increases than more senior workers.

Scott Shampine, an electrician on the 737 line in Renton hired 18 months ago, said he has gross pay with overtime of about $36,000.

The compensation calculator on the Boeing Web site shows Shampine's gross pay with overtime and bonuses going up to $42,000 the first year and to $47,000 at the end of the final year.

But Shampine found the details confusing. He said he believes the offer gives him a raise of just 6 cents an hour in the initial months. He said he doesn't trust the company calculator's result.

Boeing spokesman Healy said Shampine has misinterpreted details of the compensation offer. He said Shampine would receive a $1.14 raise immediately.

Shampine said he plans to reject the contract and vote to strike Wednesday.

Separately, the IAM filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Boeing of violating labor law during negotiations by "going around the union and trying to bargain directly with our members," Blondin said.

The union alleges Boeing violated the federal requirement for employers to bargain exclusively with designated union representatives. It cited as evidence an e-mail from a Boeing communications person obtained by the union that outlined company efforts to ask individual employees their views on specific contract proposals.

Healy said the e-mail merely referred to a legitimate company effort to get employee feedback.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published August 30, 2008, was corrected September 3, 2008. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated in the data box that Boeing estimates a $5,400 on average worth.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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