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Originally published August 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 3, 2008 at 10:52 AM

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Some Machinists jeer Boeing's "final" contract offer

Boeing's "best and final" contract offer was loudly rejected by many Machinists but welcomed by some others.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing's final offer to its Machinists

Wages and pensions up. Bonuses and incentives added.

BOEING ESTIMATES THAT, ON AVERAGE, Machinists will get an extra $34,000 in extra compensation over three years compared with the current contract.

General wage increase: 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 wage increase: Raised $2.28. This would affect new hires. Those hired in the last year or so would see their pay rise enough to meet this minimum.

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

Ratification bonus: $2,500, payable only if a majority of Machinists voting Wednesday say yes to the new 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: Beginning in the third year of the contract, Machinists 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. The company said it would develop the details of the plan with the union. Ten days' extra pay is worth about $2,000 on average.

Medical-plan changes: The traditional plan still would have zero monthly premium. However, out-of-pocket maximums on this plan would rise 50 percent for families. The monthly premiums for the HMO plan would drop 24 percent. The premiums in a third plan would go up 22 percent.

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

Source: Boeing

Local Machinists' initial reaction to the final contract offer Boeing released Thursday was mostly loud and negative, with some quieter voices willing to accept the deal.

An unscientific survey of Machinists in various plants around the region found a majority rejecting the offer.

"I'm as against it as I possibly can be," said Joe Albanese, a parts expediter on the 777 program in Everett who's concerned the pact would permit Boeing to continue outsourcing of parts delivery. "I don't care about the money," he said. "If they don't give me job security, it doesn't matter."

Larry Brown, the International Association of Machinists' lobbyist in Olympia, said late Thursday he had just left the Renton plant after surveying about 100 workers, and found only six ready to accept the offer.

"I tried to not sway them one way or the other, just to get their opinion," said Brown, en route to the Doubletree Hotel in SeaTac to report back to the union leadership.

The leaders were still surveying the rank and file Thursday evening and hadn't decided whether to recommend that members approve or reject the deal.

And there's no indication yet as to whether the "no" camp is big enough to provide the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike.

Brown said his sampling, if repeated at other plants, indicates a strike is likely. He said union leaders have to canvas opinion carefully before they make their call on the deal.

"It's dangerous for the union leadership at this time," Brown said. "You need to make the right call. You don't want to get sideways with the members."

One affirmative voice was a Machinist who works at the spares distribution center in SeaTac, who said he and a dozen workmates were inclined to accept the deal. He added, however, he had heard the mood was different inside the bigger plants in Everett and Renton.

"We're afraid that our leaders will drag this out for an unnecessary strike," said the worker, who asked for anonymity. "It seems no reasonable offer will be good enough."

Inside the Auburn plant, a long-serving Machinist named Tony said he, too, would vote yes. Approaching retirement at 55, he said he likes the pension and the early-retiree medical benefits for him and his wife.

He said the reaction around him in the Auburn plant was mixed, with those opposed to the offer noisily protesting at the top of each hour. Those inclined to accept were simply quiet.

Jim Levitt, at the Boeing research center on East Marginal Way South in Seattle, said he and most around him will vote no. He wanted a bigger pay increase after no general wage increase in the three years of the current contract.

Levitt said he thinks the company's profitability means it can and should give more. "This is our opportunity," he said. "We've all been anticipating a strike."

A colleague, Ron Seelye, said he, too, is ready to strike. "I've done it so many times before, I can do it again," he said. "They've got to share their profits."

Boeing labor negotiator Doug Kight insisted at a news conference that the offer is Boeing's "best shot" and will not change before rank-and-file Machinists vote Wednesday.

In taking this position, Boeing is gambling it can bypass further bargaining with union negotiators and go for a yes vote directly from the rank and file. A handy calculator on the company Web site allows employees to enter their own details and work out the precise financial impact of the offer to them.

Kight said the company is not "going around the union."

"We have responded in very significant and substantial ways to what they have proposed," he said, citing the fact that Boeing dropped at least four "take-away" proposals that concerned the union.

In 2002, a 62 percent majority rejected the contract, though not enough to trigger a strike. That outcome — which meant the contract took effect — left much bitterness, which Boeing believes made the strike in 2005 almost inevitable.

This time, Kight is hoping for majority approval — hence the sweetening of the deal with an extra $2,500 bonus conditional upon majority approval Wednesday.

"We believe this is the best contract offer in America this year," said Kight at the news conference. "If [union officials] recommend no, we will be disappointed."

One Everett Machinist, a relatively new hire, said he'll get little out of the raising of the minimum wage for union members. He wanted the same $2.28 increase applied to every step in the wage ladder. With that absent from the offer, he's voting no.

"I have home-improvement projects to last through September, and money enough to stay out for six months," he wrote in an e-mail.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

Information in this article, originally published August 29, 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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