Updated from 7:49 a.m. EDT
Normally, with a strike by 27,000 workers looming and with the clock ticking down to a midnight contract expiration, negotiators would be talking feverishly, hoping to whittle down the differences that separate them.
Instead, the company made its final offer Thursday to workers represented by the International Association of Machinists. "This is, as we told union leadership, our best shot," Doug Kight, Boeing's lead labor negotiator, said then, as talks ended six days before the contract vote.Voting began this morning and is scheduled to conclude at 9 p.m. EDT. "Turnout is heavy," IAM spokesman John Carr said Wednesday. The votes should be counted by 11:30 p.m. A strike, if there is to be one, would likely start around that time, with second shift workers walking off the job. Boeing shares were trading at $65.69 Wednesday, down 18 cents. In recent weeks, however, the shares do not seem to have been hurt by strike speculation. Rather, they have risen steadily since trading opened Aug. 1 at $61.39. The stakes are high because this company is the largest employer in Washington state, the largest exporter in the U.S. and one of just two companies in the world that makes big jet airplanes. Revenue in 2008 is expected to approach $70 billion. Boeing has a backlog of more than 3,400 aircraft, and somewhere in the airline industry, every airplane it will make for the next several years is awaited eagerly, if not impatiently. (Which areas of the country could be most affected by a Boeing strike?)