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Boeing Workers Split on Approving Latest Contract Offer, Authorize Strike

Engineers narrowly approved Boeing's revised 4-year contract on Tuesday, but technical workers narrowly rejected it and authorized a strike.

Boeing and its employees are still at loggerheads after the technical employees unit rejected the latest contract offer from the aerospace giant on Tuesday.

In dueling press releases Tuesday night, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and Boeing each called on the other to return to the bargaining table. Engineers in the professional unit narrowly accepted Boeing’s latest offer for a new four-year contract, but the SPEEA Technical Unit rejected the company’s offer by an equally small margin and granted strike authorization.

While engineers and technical workers bargain at the same time, the contracts are separate and independent agreements. Boeing called the latest contract its "best-and-final offer."

"Our goal throughout this entire process was to make sure SPEEA-represented employees were rewarded for the contributions they bring to this company every single day," said Ray Conner, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We believe this offer leads the market in every way ... The realities of the market require us to make changes so we can invest in new products and keep winning in this competitive environment, which will allow us to continue to provide a solid future for our team. That's why our proposal to move future hires to an enhanced 401(k)-style retirement plan is so important, as we have repeatedly emphasized over the course of these negotiations."

"Now more than ever is the time to move forward together," Conner said.

With engineers accepting Boeing’s offer, the 15,550 employees in SPEEA Professional Unit are in position to provide inside support to technical workers if there is a strike.

“There are pathways to a negotiated agreement available,” said Ray Goforth, executive director. “With this second rejection by technical workers of Boeing takeaways, it’s time for the company to stop wasting resources and improve its offer to reflect the value and contributions technical workers bring to Boeing. That way, we can avoid a strike and focus on fixing the problems of the 787 and restoring customer confidence in Boeing.”

While the company offers extended most elements of the previous contracts, including 5 percent annual wage pools and no increases to employees for medical coverage, union members found fault with the elimination of the pension for future employees. In its place, Boeing offered a 401(k) retirement package that slashed the retirement benefit by 41 percent. Boeing also refused to ensure existing employees their benefits would not be affected by changes to the Social Security cap on taxable income or raising the Medicare eligibility age. Both are being considered by Congress and would dramatically impact existing retirement packages.

On Friday, Feb. 22, SPEEA is holding a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to outline the impact a strike by technical workers would have on airlines, defense programs, trade and the tourist industry. SPEEA last struck Boeing in 2000 when more than 19,000 engineers and technical workers walked off the job for 40 days. That strike slowed airplane production to a crawl and prevented Boeing from delivering aircraft.

SPEEA contracts expired Nov. 25. Negotiations to secure new contracts started in November, 2011. SPEEA presented a full proposal to Boeing on June 15, 2012. It then took Boeing three months to present a counter offer. That offer was overwhelmingly rejected by 95.5 percent of the engineers and 97 percent of the technical workers.

While the majority of covered employees are in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, these  contracts include employees in Oregon, Utah and California.

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