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TheStreet Open House

Machinists Throw Strike Two to Boeing

Just a month after Boeing (BA) resolved a costly strike by its commercial airplane machinists, the aerospace giant is grappling with a walkout by other workers.

Employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, primarily working for Boeing's Delta government rocket program, walked off the job just past midnight Tuesday after rejecting final offers from management.

Three IAM locals represent the roughly 1,500 workers who went on strike. Two represent machinists in Alabama, while a third represents those in California and Florida.

Although specifics of Boeing's offer to each local differed, the company wanted similar changes in health care benefits in all three, said Bob Wood, an IAM spokesman. The company wants to increase deductibles and premiums and cancel retiree health benefits for future hires.

"This is a concessionary contract," Wood says. "Boeing is demanding major concessions like they're a company in bankruptcy rather than a company that made a billion-dollar profit in the last quarter."

Boeing's offers to the two Alabama locals also failed to keep up with the cost of living, Wood adds. They would have given workers an extra $3,000 this year -- but no wage increase -- and 2% raises in the next two years.

Boeing representative Dan Beck won't comment on specifics but said the company was offering a significant amount of additional income and providing additional retirement security through pension benefits and savings plans.

"We feel this is an outstanding contract," Beck says. The company would consider any proposals the union makes, although no meetings are currently scheduled, he added.

Boeing shares lost 45 cents, or 0.7%, to $64.60.

The strike is likely to affect satellite launch operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral in Florida, along with facilities in Torrance and Huntington Beach, Calif., and Decatur and Huntsville, Ala.

Boeing has yet to estimate the potential economic effect of the strike, Beck says.

A much-larger strike by about 19,000 other IAM machinists shut down Boeing's commercial airplane production in September. Boeing, which estimated the earlier walkout hurt third-quarter earnings by 25 cents to 30 cents a share, persuaded workers to come back with a new contract offer that was seen as a victory for the union.

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