WASHINGTON — A potential machinists’ strike at three key Boeing defense facilities in the St. Louis, Missouri, area was averted when members of the workers’ union on Wednesday voted to approve a new contract.

The three-year contract accepted by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 837 had more generous retirement plan benefits than a previous contract proposal, the union said in a release.

Tom Boelling, president of IAM District 837, said in a release that union negotiators worked hard to get a better offer from Boeing.

“We have delivered an equitable contract that will secure the future for the members, their families and future generations,” Boelling said.

In an email to Defense News, Boeing said it was satisfied with the resolution of the contract.

“We’re pleased with the outcome of the vote and we look forward to our future here in the St. Louis area,” Boeing said.

IAW announced July 24 its members had voted to reject that previous offer, largely over what it viewed as an inadequate 401(k) benefit, and planned to go on strike Aug. 1 after a seven-day cooling off period.

At that time, Boeing said if a strike occurred, it would enact its contingency plans to keep its factories operating.

However, talks resumed last week. On July 30, the union announced overnight negotiations with Boeing had yielded results and that the union’s nearly 2,500 members would vote on the revised contract offer Wednesday. The start of the strike was postponed until after that vote.

The IAW said in a release the revised contract offer its members approved included an $8,000 lump sum payment that can be deferred to employees’ 401(k)s.

Under the new contract, Boeing will also continue making 4% automatic contributions to each employees’ 401(k), without any match from the employee, the union said. The union said the rejected contract offer would have dropped the 4% automatic contribution in 2023 in favor of 2% lump sums at the end of the year for employees on the payroll on the last days of 2023 and 2024, after which those lump sums would have gone away entirely.

The ratified contract will also maintain the current 75% match for the first 8% employees contribute from their own salaries. In the contract offer rejected in late July, Boeing proposed a 100% match of 10% of employee contributions.

While that would have been a more generous match, the union prioritized keeping the 4% automatic contribution.

The union said the contract will also include an average 14% general wage increase over the three-year period, plus cost-of-living adjustments; no changes to employees’ existing health insurance plans; improvements to sick, parental and funeral leave; and other changes to the wage and raise structure.

The contract, which takes effect Thursday, covers members at Boeing facilities in St. Louis and St. Charles, Missouri, and Mascoutah, Illinois. Aircraft such as the T-7A Red Hawk trainer, F-15 and F/A-18 fighters and the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned refueling aircraft are built in St. Louis, and St. Charles produces the precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, among other weapons.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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