Martin Wold wasn't sure yesterday how he will vote on the new contract Boeing has offered to the Machinists union. The 47-year-old painter returned...

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Martin Wold wasn’t sure yesterday how he will vote on the new contract Boeing has offered to the Machinists union.

The 47-year-old painter returned to work at the company’s Everett plant just four days ago, after a layoff of nearly three years.

Wold voted against a strike in 2002. He was sympathetic to the company’s struggles after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also was worried about losing his job — which he did, four months after the vote.

Now, he’s happy to be back on the job. But he’s not excited about his medical costs rising as they would under Boeing’s final contract proposal.

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“Twenty percent of the work force just got recalled, so there’s a lot of new people who’ve been out of work for a long time,” Wold said. “I’m up in the air, but my [health insurance] deductible just went from $200 to $300.”

Wold and other Machinists will vote today on the Boeing offer, deciding whether the union follows its leaders’ recommendation and goes on strike for the first time since 1995.

The current contract expires at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow.


Boeing’s complete best-and-final offer

(downloadable .pdf file)

Machinists negotiations page:

Boeing’s negotiations page:

Mark Blondin, president of the Machinists union, and Jerry Calhoun, vice president of human resources for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, kept a low profile yesterday after guiding negotiations and leading the public-relations campaign on behalf of their respective positions.

Instead, yesterday was a day for grass-roots politicking. Union representatives and stewards walked the factory floors and answered workers’ questions.

Likewise, Boeing executives met with company managers and made sure they were armed with details about the offer so they could answer questions from Machinists in their work groups. Boisterous Machinists also held noisy rallies inside virtually all the area factories.

Hundreds of workers in Everett blew air horns and waved signs as they walked out of the main factory building en masse at 10:40 a.m.

Timetable for Machinists’ vote

Members of the International Association of Machinists, District 751, will vote on the contract offer today at union halls throughout the Puget Sound area, as well as in Portland and Wichita, Kan. Polls will be open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ballots will then be transported to the Machinists’ Seattle union hall to be counted. The result should be announced late tonight.

In Auburn, more than 500 workers marched to the 17-12 building that houses the factory manager’s office and chanted “No on the contract, yes on the strike!” said Ronnie Behnke, an inspector with 27 years at Boeing and a recording secretary for the union.

The demonstrations attracted television cameras and slowed traffic near the factories.

Whether there’s a strike may depend on the quieter decisions made by wavering Machinists in the privacy of the voting booth.

Those who hold the key may be younger workers who do not place as much importance on pensions and health care as their older peers, and workers such as Wold who are among the nearly 4,000 Machinists recalled to work since 2004.

“For me the pension is not as big a deal, but that could be me one day,” said Erick Wiley, 40, another painter in Everett who returned to work this week after being laid off for two years.

Union negotiators said pensions are the Machinists’ No. 1 priority, and dissatisfaction with Boeing’s offer to increase monthly payments by 10 percent — to $66 per month for each year of service at the company — was a chief reason for recommending members reject the offer.

On the other hand, Wiley said, “the job market is really bad. It’s tough on the outside.”

He wants to look at the contract closely before deciding how to vote, but he admitted the ratification bonus is a big draw. “A lot of us have been pretty broke for a long time.”

Paul Roan, a mechanic in Everett who’s worked at Boeing since 1979, said he will definitely vote against the contract and for a strike. He thinks the union is more cohesive than it was in 2002, when Machinists rejected the contract but did not reach the two-thirds majority necessary to authorize a strike.

“They’ve been in there banging rivets and on tables,” he said. “It’s the loudest I’ve heard. The solidarity is definitely there.”

Keith Kempff, 50, received his recall notice yesterday, three years after he was laid off from his job as an avionics tester on the 747 program.

Kempff visited the Everett Machinists hall yesterday to see if he could vote today but was told he cannot because his first day back at work is not for another two to three weeks.

Despite his long absence from the company, Kempff said he would vote in favor of a strike “in a heartbeat.”

“I was 47 when I was laid off,” he said. “Now I’m 50. I’m thinking about my retirement.”

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or