As Boeing continues its assault on unions, labor officials representing the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) say the two sides are “in open conflict.”
The SPEEA and Boeing are just weeks away from a deadline to complete a deal. On behalf of the 23,000 Pugent Sound employees, Ray Goforth of the SPEEA said,
“These are the most offensive and disrespectful negotiations I’ve ever been part of. It appears they don’t have any intention to reach a deal.”
While there is little fear of a strike by the SPEEA, Goforth promises they will not be a pushover.
He’s (Goforth) adamant his team won’t endorse a Boeing proposal that will provide relatively modest salary and pension increases, shift medical costs to employees and, for new hires, replace the current employee pension with a 401(k) plan that will lower retirement benefits.
The workers are represented separately from the Machinists (International Association of Machinist) who recently went toe to toe with Boeing. Much like their machinist counterparts, the SPEEA sees nothing but greedy dollar symbols in the eyes of a company demanding concessions after posting a $4 billion profit last year.
A main sticking point for the union is the attempt by management to replace the employee pension plan with a 401(k).
“They dropped a proposal we’d been telling them for more than a year we could never accept,” Goforth said. “They set fire to a year’s worth of bridge-building.”
The SPEEA has had only one extended strike, a 40-day fight in 2000, in its 66 year history. While striking remains an option, the union isn’t hard pressed to go that route.
“Other unions are much more political, centered around a class identity,” said Goforth. “Ours is focused around their professional identity and their place in the industry.”