Boeing to remain in Seattle after winning union vote

9:13 AM, Jan 5, 2014   |    comments
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(CBS NEWS) - Boeing says it will now keep thousands of jobs in the Seattle area -- after a tight union vote went its way.

But some of the rank and file accuse Boeing of using fear as a tactic to win painful concessions.

By the narrowest of margins, 51percent, the machinist union voted to accept an eight-year contract with Boeing. In return for a $15,000 signing bonus, workers reluctantly agreed to give up their valuable pensions and switch to a 401k type of retirement plan in two years.

Some employees are bitter, saying Boeing is squeezing its workers even when the company is flush with profits.

"I feel a lot of our people were scared because of what they've been told over and over and over and over during Christmas break," said Lester Mullen, a Boeing machinist. "And when you have a gun to your head eventually you're going to give in and say, 'Okay, I give.'"

The "gun" he's referring to was Boeing's threat to move out of Washington state.  After the union originally rejected the contract in November, Boeing began wooing 22 other states. There was fierce competition to land the new plant and its thousands of jobs

Aviation industry analyst Scott Hamilton says that was a negotiating tactic only a company as big as Boeing could wield.

"It means that you have upwards of 27,000 direct and indirect jobs that will stay here through the next decade and the decade beyond that," he said.

With the yes vote, the union's 32,000 members are guaranteed work on the company's new wide body jet, the Triple Seven.

"It's a tough thing for the workers to give back anything," Hamilton said. "My view is it's better to have 80 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing."

Boeing says other Seattle businesses, from grocery stores to car dealerships, will also benefit from those jobs staying in the area.

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