By Manuel Valdes
SEATTLE -- The stakes were high and the vote was close as Boeing production workers agreed to concede some benefits to secure assembly of the new 777X airplane for the Puget Sound region.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Boeing hailed Friday's vote, which proponents said solidifies the aerospace giant's presence in the Seattle area.
"Tonight, Washington state secured its future as the aerospace capital of the world," Inslee declared.
Under the terms of the eight-year contract extension, Boeing said the 777X and its composite wing will be built in the Puget Sound area by Boeing employees represented by the Machinists union.
"Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter," Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said. "We're proud to say that together, we'll build the world's next great airplane -- the 777X and its new wing -- right here. This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come."
Local officials of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had urged their 30,000 members to oppose the deal, arguing that the proposal surrendered too much at a time of company profitability. They had opposed taking a vote at all but were overruled by national leaders in the Machinists union.
The announcement that the contract had passed with a 51% yes vote was somber.
"Our members have spoken and having said that, this is the course we'll take," Jim Bearden, administrative assistant for Machinists District 751, said in announcing the results. "No member liked this vote or the position we were put in by the company, nor was it an easy vote for anyone to cast."