The Machinists have spoken, and the vote was 51 percent in favor of the contract extension.
After a nail-biter day of tense waiting, Machinist local Chief of Staff Jim Bearden announced the results to a small crowd of reporters gathered at the union’s Renton headquarters, as union members learned the same news next door.
Moments earlier, the somber-looking machinist local President Tom Wroblewski, went to a room where he announced the results to dozens of union members. Reporters were not permitted.
The result was a major reversal for the union, whose members had battled each other in recent weeks over whether there should even be a vote. Local leadership had recommended rejecting the contract.
Afterwards, union members who had come to the headquarters to hear the result said they were surprised and disappointed.
Omar Abdulalim works on the 737 line. He said he felt betrayed by politicians, by the international union, and now by his fellow members.
“It’s unreal to me how we voted 67 per cent to reject it, and now 51 percent say it’s good," he said.
Mood throughout the evening at District 751 headquarters in South Seattle was low-key. Members said they felt let down by politicians who called on them to give up their benefits while Boeing is on the upswing.
Bearden said there was too much interference from the outside.
“There’s been a lot of pressure in the last two weeks from politicians outside who shouldn’t be in our business," he said.
The vote could have widespread and long-lasting effects on the Puget Sound region’s economy. The 777X allows the region to keep thousands of jobs that would otherwise have disappeared when the current run of the 777 plane ended. It also gives the region the chance to develop expertise in producing the 777X's carbon composite wing, expected to be the largest in the world.
The battle came down to a fight for worker security versus corporate security. Many of those who voted "no" took to social media and other forums to say they couldn’t stomach the concessions the company demanded, including freezing worker pensions and converting to 401k plans – benefits they said were critical for future generations to enjoy the same kind of security they had.
Boeing argued such security was an illusion in the face of potential erosion of company profits in a global marketplace with fierce cost competition.
In a statement late Friday, Boeing confirmed that the contract agreement means the 777X and its composite wing will be built here. It said the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter. Robley Evans works at Boeing in Auburn. He said the future isn’t bright for the Machinists. "Time will tell if it does stand that it was an incredibly devastating vote and people who voted for it are going to have second thoughts in a few years."