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Report: Machinists leader slams Boeing's 777X contract proposal, says he'll seek to halt vote

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SEATTLE - The leader of Boeing Co. machinists told hundreds of union workers Thursday night that he will see whether he can stop a vote on a proposed new eight-year contract agreement that Boeing says will determine whether much of its new 777X jet is built in the Puget Sound area, a newspaper reports.

"I know this is a piece of crap," Machinists District 751 President Tom Wroblewski said. "I will go to see if this can be withdrawn and not even put to a vote."

The vote is supposed to happen next Wednesday.

Wroblewski told union members he'll check whether the union's bylaws allow the proposal to be pulled.

The meeting was closed to reporters until the doors flew open at the end and a Seattle Times reporter heard Wroblewski's final comments (http://is.gd/aP3Qyw ).

Departing machinists told reporters that their leader tore up a copy of the proposal as the meeting ended.

A man who answered the phone late Thursday night at Machinists union headquarters said Wroblewski was not immediately available to discuss the reported comments with the Associated Press.

"All of our options are still on the table, including those within Boeing and interest we have received from outside," the aerospace company said in a statement late Thursday. "We chose to engage in Puget Sound first, but without full acceptance by the union and Legislature, we will be left with no choice but to open up the process competitively and pursue other options for locating the 777X work."

State lawmakers gathered Thursday in Olympia to consider a package of incentives for Boeing, all designed to keep key manufacturing work on the new plane in Washington state.

The Times reported that machinist union members willing to discuss the proposal on Thursday were overwhelmingly against it, saying it raises their health-care costs and replaces their traditional pension with a defined contribution savings plan.

The contract would also provide wage increases of just 1 per cent every other year, the newspaper reported. In addition, it would lock in a wage structure that would see new hires take as long as 16 years to reach the top of the pay scale, instead of six years under the current contract.

In Olympia earlier in the day, lawmakers recalled Boeing's past decisions to ship work elsewhere.

It was a decade ago when a coalition of lawmakers and the governor ushered through a broad package of tax breaks and other benefits for Boeing — all in an effort to keep the company's 787 manufacturing in the state. In the years that followed, however, wing production was placed in Japan and a new production line was established in South Carolina.

Gov. Jay Inslee told lawmakers that his new proposal — which would extend the tax incentives approved in the 2003 — includes protections that require key manufacturing work of the new 777X to remain in Washington.

"We believe this will prevent the consequences of what happened with the second line in the Boeing 787," said Inslee, who called lawmakers back to Olympia this week for a special session dedicated to the Boeing proposals. Inslee also has called for a $10 billion transportation revenue package to pass as part of the overall plan, but Senate leadership has indicated that it wants to take that up at a later time.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com

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