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Boeing machinists authorize potential strike

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – Employees at Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis voted overwhelming Sunday to authorize a strike if ongoing contract negotiations do not produce an acceptable deal.

Ninety-nine percent of the 2,800 workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 837, voted to notify their national headquarters of the possibility. The procedural step allows national officials to check membership roles and begin the process of freeing up money that would fund the employee's strike pay.

Boeing and District 837 officials are currently negotiating "non-economic" issues. Talks on salary and pensions - the "economic package" - will not begin until May. But District 837 president Gordon King said language that would allow Boeing to lay off workers with more seniority was troubling.

"No matter what the company gives on the economic package, I do not believe the membership is going to give up seniority rights. That's been strongholds for unions for years," he said. "It's the difference between what's considered union and having to be terminated for just cause, or being an at-will worker."

Boeing officials would not comment on the seniority issue, and said in a statement they expect negotiations to be successful.

District 837 authorized a strike against Boeing in 2007, but did not walk out. The last strike took place in 1996, when it was still McDonnell Douglas.

A vote on the actual contract will take place June 13th. If the contract is rejected, there will be a separate vote the same day to strike.