Boeing Strike At California C-17 Plant Ends

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Boeing Co. workers who assemble C-17 planes returned to work Thursday after a monthlong strike that shut down production of the military cargo jets in a stalemate over benefits.

Union members voted 823-544 Wednesday in favor of the nearly five-year contract that was reached after federal mediators stepped into the standoff last week. The new deal extends Boeing's last proposal by one year and reduces employee health care contributions from the previous offer, which caused nearly all 1,700 unionized workers to walk out May 11.

Boeing said several hundred mechanics showed up to work Thursday, with the others expected in by Monday to meet with managers and resume production.

"It's a tough transition any time," Boeing spokeswoman Cindy Anderson said. "We're going to make sure people are respectful of each other. It's all in the past and we need to move forward."

Leaders of United Aerospace Workers Local 148 recommended that its members approve the deal, which included an increase in pension benefits while leaving pay increases and job-protection proposals untouched. Boeing offered a $4,000 lump-sum payment instead of a raise this year, with 3 percent annual wage increases in following years.

A message left with the union local's president, Stanley Klemchuk, was not immediately returned.

Chicago-based Boeing is Long Beach's largest private employer with about 5,000 workers. C-17 vendors and suppliers in 44 states supporting an estimated 30,000 more jobs.

Production of the plane is expected to end by 2013, as military orders have dropped off.

Anderson said the new 58-month contract will allow Boeing to keep the C-17 affordable in order to win new orders and extend production.

The local work force has assembled more than 200 C-17s bought by the U.S. military and other countries. The massive four-engine workhorse has been used in Iraq, Afghanistan and humanitarian missions such as earthquake relief in Haiti.

Boeing endured an eight-week strike in late 2008 that shut down commercial airplane production and was a factor in delays for its new 787 and a new version of its 747. That walkout was by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which covered some 27,000 Boeing employees in Washington state, Oregon and Kansas.

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