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Boeing union workers agree to strike at three St. Louis-area facilities

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Boeing Defense

In this Wednesday, April 25, 2018, photo, a F/A-18 Super Hornet undergoes updates and maintenance at Boeing's facility in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

ST. CHARLES — Labor strikes and picketing are expected soon at three Boeing facilities across the St. Louis region, following a union vote on Sunday to do so. Members weren’t satisfied with the terms of a proposed contract.

“Our members have spoken loudly and with one voice,” the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 837 said in a press release. “We reject Boeing’s current contract offer.”

The union, which represents about 2,500 workers, said the strikes would start at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1 at all three Boeing facilities in St. Charles County, St. Louis County and Mascoutah.

“We cannot accept a contract that is not fair and equitable, as this company continues to make billions of dollars each year off the backs of our hardworking members,” the union said.

Their statement added that Boeing previously took away a pension from its members, putting their “hard-earned retirements in jeopardy.”

A union representative said by email that there were two votes held on Sunday, one not to accept the new contract, the other to strike. He said they don’t typically release the vote count, but said there was overwhelming support for both actions.

In response, Boeing, a $93 billion company by market capitalization, said in a press release: “Boeing is disappointed with Sunday’s vote to reject a strong, highly competitive offer. We are activating our contingency plan to support continuity of operations in the event of a strike.”

A Boeing spokesman told the Post-Dispatch before the vote that the contract proposal offered highly competitive wage increases and one of the most lucrative 401(k) plans in the nation.

As part of its retirement plan, Boeing said the company will match dollar-for-dollar up to 10% of base and incentive pay, and that the company will also make a special contribution of 2% in 2023 and 2024.

The union said Boeing previously would match 75% of the first 8% that an employee put in retirement. In addition, Boeing provided 4% of the employee’s base rate and incentives without the employee investing anything.

“The company is trying to put the onus of retirement all on the employee,” Jody Bennett, an international representative of the union, said by telephone.

Boeing said in an offer summary fact sheet that everyone would get raises each of the next three years: $2 per hour base rate increase in the first year, or about a 7% base rate increase, plus a $1,000 cash lump sum; 4% general wage increase in year two; and 3% general wage increase in year three.

There was to be a $3,000 cash bonus if the contract was ratified Sunday.

On Friday, Boeing stock closed at $158 per share, down from $226 per share one year ago, or 30%.

St. Louis-area union members at Boeing build and produce weapons and military aircraft like the F-15 and F-18. They haven’t had a strike in more than two decades.

“It is the bravest decision a union member makes to go on strike, putting their family and loved ones at risk,” the union said in its press release. “We do not make this decision lightly or in haste, but do so in order to stand up for working people around the globe and fight for the contract we deserve.”

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