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Originally published December 23, 2013 at 6:08 PM | Page modified December 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

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Machinists to allow absentee ballots for key 777X vote

The local Machinists District 751 says it will break with its standard procedures and allow absentee ballots for the contentious Jan. 3 vote on Boeing’s revised contract offer because many of its union members will be on vacation.

By Seattle Times staff

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The local Machinist union says it will break with its standard procedures and allow absentee ballots for the contentious Jan. 3 vote on Boeing’s revised contract offer because many of its members will be on vacation.

A post on the International Association of Machinists District 751 website Monday said the local leadership “got the International President to grant authority to do a one-time absentee ballot process on a contract vote.”

“We are still working on the details of that process,” said the post. “These are extraordinary times and our goal is to ensure that every member gets an opportunity to vote.”

The top leadership of the Machinists, known within the union as “the International,” has ordered a vote on Boeing’s contract offer, despite strong opposition from the union’s local leadership, which says the contract isn’t much better than the one members rejected 2 to 1 in November.

Boeing has said it will build the 777X here if Machinists approve the revised contract, which after 2016 would replace future growth in their pensions with a defined-contribution retirement-savings plan.

If the contract is not approved, Boeing says, it may build the plane in one of the 21 other states that responded to its recent request for proposals.

Calvin, a Machinist at the Renton 737 plant who asked that his last name not be used, welcomed news of the absentee-voting option.

“I’m going to be in Mexico on Christmas Day,” he said, adding that 25 or 30 percent of his co-workers also would be on vacation that Friday, after the midweek New Year’s Day.

Calvin, who works in material management, predicted the vote “is going to be extremely close this time.”

A spokesman for the International union headquarters could not be reached for comment Monday to confirm the absentee ballots or to discuss the timing of the vote.

Absentee voting wasn’t mentioned in the brief announcement the International leadership made Saturday confirming it was ordering a vote.

That statement simply said the Jan. 3 vote “will take place at IAM Local union halls in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR and Wichita, KS, with results announced later that day.”

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