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Machinists Will Vote On Updated Boeing Contract After All

KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Machinists who are on vacation will still get a chance to vote on a proposed contract with Boeing.

Union officials said in a message to members Monday that they are developing an absentee ballot process for those who cannot make it to the polls on Jan. 3. Local union leaders have expressed concern that many members will be on vacation and out of the area when the vote takes place.

National union leadership set the vote for Jan. 3 over the objections of local union leaders. Local union representatives say the latest contract offer is too similar to one rejected just last month.

Machinists union workers rejected a contract Boeing proposed in November by 67 percent.

Speaking on The Record on Tuesday, Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, said that Boeing has successfully pitted the local union against the national.

"Boeing has essentially driven a wedge between the workers and their unions and this is the implications of it," Chaison said. “This will be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the company because the membership is clearly divided between whether to accept Boeing’s demand that the contract be reopened and major concessions and pension plans be accepted.”

Chaison said the national union "would like this whole thing to go away." If the Machinists reject the contract, he said, that would mean Boeing would leave Washington state, which would mean jobs lost and a decline in union membership.

The latest Boeing offer would still move workers away from a traditional pension plan. However, the company has backed away from a proposal that would have slowed the rate at which employees rise up the pay scale.