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Originally published Monday, November 11, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: Vote Yes for the Boeing 777X

Aerospace Machinists should secure their future by voting “Yes” on the proposed labor contract.

Seattle Times Editorial

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MEMBERS of Aerospace Machinists District 751 need to carefully weigh the contract their leadership negotiated with Boeing. They need to consider what they’re getting if they say “yes” and what they would be left with, a decade from now, if they say “no.”

Last week some Machinists denounced the proposal, particularly over retirement benefits.

Under the offer, Boeing would freeze the Machinists’ pension on Oct. 31, 2016, and vest everyone. Boeing is legally obligated to pay benefits earned up to that day. In addition, it has agreed to increase the monthly benefit per year of service and offer a full retirement benefit starting at age 58, down from 60 now.

Beginning in November 2016, Machinists will have two retirement accounts, a new one funded by the company and their existing 401(k) plans. The company will increase the 401(k) match from half to three-quarters of the first 8 percent set aside.

Most Americans in the private sector have lost their defined-benefit pensions, if they ever had one. Few have a replacement deal as good as this offer to the Aerospace Machinists. You set aside 8 percent and the company matches with 6 percent. The company pays another 4 percent (and more in the first three years) into another account. Add it up: 18 percent, tax-deferred, year after year.

Machinists keep their good wages, protected by a cost-of-living adjustment few other workers have, plus 1 percent raises every two years. Also, good medical and dental benefits. And an incentive program (based on safety, productivity and quality) of up to 6 percent of pay, compared with 4 percent now.

And a $10,000 bonus for saying “yes.”

Finally, according to the union’s description of the proposal on the Machinists’ Web page:

“If this contract is ratified, new buildings totaling over one and a half million square feet will be built to house the 777X final assembly and 777X wing production ... This means securing jobs in Washington State for our children and grandchildren. We will never have this opportunity again.”

The Aerospace Machinists of Puget Sound are in competition with nonunion workers in South Carolina. They are also in competition with potential workers in Long Beach, Calif., and elsewhere. If Aerospace Machinists ratify this contract, they win the competition. They keep the work.

Worth doing? Yes.

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