Union Approves Boeing Contract, 180 to be Laid Off

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Oak Ridge, Anderson County (WVLT) - Boeing union workers have a new contract, but many of the same workers that overwhelmingly voted to approve the contract could be out of a job by mid-January.

Of the just over three hundred union jobs at Boeing in Oak Ridge, 180 will disappear next year.

So for those voting today, bringing a strike to an end after 102 days was a bittersweet victory.

"We have done the right thing and we have voted by 78% yes. I'm proud of you," says Michael Minor, IAM Union President.

After 102 days on the picket line Boeing's Union workers voted 197-53 to ratify the company's latest three year contract offer but it was bittersweet even for the yes voters.

"The first two contracts we took a little lesser contract to help out the company because the company was in trouble. Now they're not," says James Wells.

"We'll live to fight another day and hopefully a lot of these jobs will come back to Oak Ridge," adds David Spears.

But not everyone was happy as some walked out after learning the majority had given in.

"They're forcing their hands because they're telling us we're all getting laid off so they're scared and running back in to work," says Betty Smith.

The toughest part is the loss of 180 workers to be laid off.

"Well, I'm 52-years-old you know. I don't have a job. I have to start all over," Smith says.

But this was the union's first ever walkout, a walkout where most workers stuck with the union.

"I believe that when we first went out the company didn't believe we were going out but I'm proud of them sticking the way they did," Wells says.

"For those that hung out and did the right thing by staying out on strike, I don't know how they did it but I'm impressed," says Minor.

But Smith says 41 union workers did walk out and are seen as scabs.

"There are going to be some hard feelings but in time it will be forgotten but it will always be in our mind," Spears says.

"Some of the people that went in as scabs they're getting laid off and we're going yea!" Smith says.

Under the contract, workers who remain will receive a 5% pay raise in December, maintained healthcare, and a 50% increase in retirement benefits.

Boeing officials say they are now focusing their attention on welcoming workers back while opening a career transition center to help laid off workers with retraining in finding new jobs as well as extend healthcare benefits to April.


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