SEATTLE - It was make or break time for Boeing Machinists on Friday, as the union workers had to decide whether to accept a contract that would concede some pension and health care benefits to secure assembly of the new 777X airplane in Washington state.
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Check postandcourier.com/boeing Saturday for updates on the union vote.
Results of the voting were expected to be announced early Saturday. Long lines snaked around polling places in the Puget Sound area most of Friday.
Boeing's offer has fractured the union and drawn unusual pleas from politicians who say the deal is necessary to support the Puget Sound region's economic future. The company has been exploring the prospect of building the 777X elsewhere, a move that could trigger a steady exodus of aerospace jobs from a region where Boeing was founded.
Local union officials, meanwhile, are urging their 30,000 members to oppose the deal, arguing that the proposal surrenders too much at a time of company profitability. They have opposed taking a vote at all but were overruled by national leaders in the Machinists union.
Washington state has always been the most natural place for Chicago-based Boeing to build the 777X, since most of the company's production is still done in the Puget Sound area. Boeing has offered to keep the 777X in the region but sought two big deals: An extension of tax breaks all the way to 2040 and a new contract with the Machinists union that would transition workers away from traditional pensions.
In November, state lawmakers swiftly approved the tax benefits - valued at some $9 billion - but the Machinists rejected a proposed contract shortly afterward. After the initial contract rejection, Boeing immediately began soliciting bids from other states, including South Carolina, where it already builds the 787 Dreamliner. The company said it received submissions for 54 locations in 22 states.
If the union rejects the latest offer, the company is expected to announce where the 777X will be built soon.
Boeing has improved its offer since the last vote by Machinists. An initial plan to slow the rate that workers move up the pay scale was tossed while the company also offered an additional $5,000 signing bonus and improved dental coverage.
Boeing Co. began offering the 777X in May, and company officials have said they need to move swiftly to decide where the plane will be built.
Production of Boeing's 777X would likely bring thousands of well-paying jobs to whatever region wins the work.
The company recently leased nearly 500 additional acres near its 787 campus at Charleston International Airport for future growth. Aviation analysts believe the company will move more 787 production work to North Charleston.
The Post and Courier contributed to this report.