SEATTLE (AP) – Machinists at Boeing Co. approved a new labor contract on Thursday, ending a four-week strike that shut down the company’s commercial airplane assembly plants.

About 80 percent of those voting accepted the three-year pact, union leaders said, clearing the way for Machinists to return to work as early as Thursday night.

A simple majority was needed to accept or reject the offer. Union leaders had recommended that members support the deal, saying it addressed key issues – pensions and health care benefits.

The average Machinist at Boeing is 49 and makes about $59,000 a year.

Under the new contract, workers will see no changes to current health care premiums. Pension payouts will increase by nearly 17 percent, to $70 per month for every year worked.

The strike by about 18,400 Machinists began Sept. 2.

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