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Originally published November 8, 2013 at 4:41 PM | Page modified November 8, 2013 at 10:24 PM

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Boeing exec Conner urges Machinists to OK contract

The Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief told union members the contract extension will assure “a long and prosperous future together.”

Seattle Times staff

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner addressed the company’s machinists directly Friday in a message urging them to approve a proposed eight-year contract extension that has caused a furor among union members.

“Like many of you, I’m the product of a Boeing family, and I care deeply about the company and its people. Let’s move forward together,” Conner wrote in a statement that emphasized the competitive pressures facing the company.

He said Boeing’s proposal, scheduled for a vote next Wednesday by 31,000 Puget Sound area members of the International Association of Machinists, “provides a unique opportunity for stability and security for our team, customers, suppliers, and community for years to come. It helps ensure we build a product that’s of superior value and yet affordable — key basics that our customers require.”

The company says approval of the contract will ensure the 777X is built in Everett, and its big composite wing is fabricated in the state as well.

Many Machinists voiced unhappiness this week with the contract’s proposed terms, which include a $10,000 signing bonus but substantial changes in pay, retirement and health benefits. In a meeting Thursday night with members, Local 751 President Tom Wroblewski tore up a copy of the terms and said he’d try to have the proposal withdrawn.

Boeing’s initial response to news of that meeting was a statement for the first time explicitly stating that if the contract is rejected, the company would “open up the process competitively and pursue other options for locating the 777X work” outside Washington state.

“If not ratified per the scheduled vote on Nov. 13, we will begin taking the next steps,” Boeing later added.

Conner’s message took a more conciliatory tone, declaring: “We want the union and company to have a long and prosperous future together.”

He said Boeing’s goal is “to create a competitive structure to ensure that we continue market-leading pay, health-care and retirement benefits while preserving jobs and our industrial base here in Puget Sound.”

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