Jubilant Machinists yesterday cheered the apparent end of their 3-½-week strike against Boeing, on terms they considered a clear union...

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Jubilant Machinists yesterday cheered the apparent end of their 3-½-week strike against Boeing, on terms they considered a clear union victory.

“This is better than we anticipated,” said Brian Gross, a 17-year Boeing employee picketing outside the Everett plant yesterday afternoon when told of the tentative contract.

“If these are the numbers, I’ll bet money that people will buy this; no question about it,” he said.

Added Drew Fitzgerald, who’s worked for Boeing almost 10 years: “Let’s go back to work tomorrow.”

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Gross, 43, was joined by his wife, Julie, and two of their four children at the picket station. Their 11-year-old son, Brian, was there even though he’d broken his hand last week playing football.

“Medical was far and away the No. 1 issue for me,” Gross said, cheered by word Boeing had abandoned its proposal to change its health-care plan so that workers would bear more of the costs.

Fitzgerald, 46, said the lack of wage increases in the deal doesn’t bother him.

More important, he said, was the company’s backing off on two key issues: offering different contract terms to Machinists in Wichita and allowing outside vendors to do assembly work.

“That one really threw a wrench into the thing,” he said.

Joe Polzin, 50, who’s worked at Boeing for 20 years, said the deal sounded good to him, although he wanted to see the terms in writing.

Exceeding any particular issue, he said, was a sense that Boeing didn’t respect the Machinists.

The union grudgingly accepted a 2002 contract that many members opposed, then joined forces with Boeing management to win tax breaks that kept final assembly of the new 787 Dreamliner in Everett.

“I kept waiting for the company to say ‘thanks,’ ” Polzin said. “I think I’m worth what I’m getting paid here.”

Added Gross: “This is a good place to work, no question about it. You get good wages and the benefits are great. We just want to keep it that way.”

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or ddesilver@seattletimes.com