Boeing machinists pass contract, avoid strike

Sunday, June 27, 2010 | 5:30 p.m. CDT; updated 8:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 28, 2010

ST. LOUIS — Boeing workers in St. Louis have accepted a contract with the plane manufacturer, avoiding a strike that would have gone into effect Monday if the deal had been rejected.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the contract passed Sunday by a vote of 1,237 to 838. The union had said its workers in St. Louis were prepared to strike starting at midnight if the vote had failed.

The main contention against the four-and-a-half year proposal was a clause that would place workers hired after January 2012 in a retirement plan based on company contributions instead of in a traditional pension.

Union spokesman Tom Pinksi said that clause remains in place. However, the newly approved contract removes language that would have dropped an employee's dependent health care coverage if the worker took a medical leave of absence for more than six months. The new contract allows for 30 months of coverage.

Boeing said in a statement that it is pleased the contract was passed. It said the terms were competitive to keep jobs in St. Louis.

The contract covers 2,533 Boeing workers, most of them in St. Louis, as well as operations in Maryland and other locations. The workers make the FA-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and the F-15 Strike Eagle ground attack strike fighter as well as parts for the C-17 Air Force cargo plane, which is assembled at the Long Beach plant.

Earlier this month, a monthlong strike by Boeing workers at the Chicago-based company's C-17 Long Beach plant in California ended after workers approved a contract there. The strike had shut down production of the military cargo jets.

Boeing endured an eight-week strike in late 2008 that shut down commercial airplane production and was a factor in delays for its new 787 and a new version of its 747. That Machinists union walkout covered some 27,000 Boeing employees in Washington state, Oregon and Kansas.

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