Boeing workers approve new contract

Boeing employees just barely approved a new labor contract late Friday, after protracted negotiations.

The eight-year contract, backed by 51 percent of workers, paves the way for Boeing’s new 777X airplane to be built in the Puget Sound region. In exchange, machinists made concessions on both benefits and future wages.

"Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter," Ray Conner the chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

"This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come."

The new contract divided national labor officials, who backed the deal, and local unions, who said the new deal had “steep concessions on retirement and health care benefits and limits on future wage growth.”

Boeing workers had brushed aside a similar contract late last year. But machinists have felt new pressure to accept the terms after the aerospace giant sounded open to building the 777X outside the Puget Sound.

Washington state also approved new tax breaks last year for Boeing, if the airplane was built in the state, in an effort to keep thousands of jobs in the state.

Tom Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers, said that workers “made decisions they felt were in the best interest of their careers.”

“Despite individual differences, I believe this vote preserves thousands of good-paying IAM jobs, while assuring the success of the 777X program,” Buffenbarger added in a statement.

Tom Wroblewski, the president of the local union, acknowledged that they wanted the members to reject the deal “because we felt the cost was too high.”

But with the contract approved, Wroblewski said “it’s up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful.”