Some Boeing machinists plan to contest crucial labor vote

SEATTLE Mon Jan 6, 2014 4:51pm EST

SEATTLE Jan 6 (Reuters) - Some Boeing Co machinists are set to push for a recount or even a new vote on the plane-maker's latest labor contract, according to one source, possibly extending a long-running drama over which state will get to work on Boeing's new 777X jet.

The issue appeared decided late on Friday when local machinists voted very narrowly in favor of the contract, apparently securing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity for Washington state, but at the cost of union members' defined-benefit pensions.

Some members of the International Association of Machinists District 751 plan to rally at the union hall in Everett, Washington on Monday afternoon, said a source close to the union, calling for a recount of the narrow vote or a completely new vote. Local union lodges plan to discuss the issue when they meet over the next three days. The source did not want to be named because it was not authorized to speak publicly.

Arguments over the contract, which was passed by a bare 51 percent majority of machinists on Friday, exposed rifts in the labor movement.

Younger workers tended to favor the deal, whereas older workers were more hostile as they had fought for the pension in the past and many are close to retirement. Boeing's offer would cap the pension in 2016 and replace it with a defined-contribution plan. The national leadership of the IAM was also in favor of the contract, overruling opposition by the local District 751.

About 600 votes separated yes from no, union officials said on Friday. About 8,000 of the 31,000 eligible union members did not vote.

Had the workers rejected the offer, Boeing would have considered making the successor to its popular 777 widebody jet elsewhere, and had received offers from 22 states interested in hosting the new factory.

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