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Jun
2014
27

Boeing’s Ability to Ship Jobs to Low-Paying States Could Hinge on Pair of Miami Union Workers

The SPEEA/Boeing relationship has long been contentious. This protest photo dates back to 2000.

The SPEEA/Boeing relationship has long been contentious. This protest photo dates back to 2000.


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The Everett Herald has detailed the major implications of the decision by two Boeing engineers in Miami, FL to join the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). The case could impact both the union and Boeing moving forward.  

At the heart of the matter is Boeing’s establishment of “Centers of Excellence,” a move the company deems necessary to tap new sources of talent which the union says is an attempt to cut labor costs and weaken the SPEEA’s negotiating position.  

Some background on the situation comes from the Everett Herald:

Late last year, two engineers with Boeing Flight Services in Miami voted to join the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the union that represents more than 25,000 workers at Boeing and other companies.

They voted in a self-determination election, which allows employees to join an existing collective bargaining unit. That means the employees don’t have to negotiate an entirely new contract. The process is also called an Armour-Globe election, a reference to case law that established the legal doctrine.

An Armour-Globe election can “streamline organizing,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA’s executive director.

After the Miami vote, though, contract negotiations between Boeing and SPEEA  earlier this year reached an impasse.

SPEEA argued that most of the existing contract terms for metro Puget Sound employees should simply be extended to the two engineers in Miami.

Boeing argued that many contract terms should be renegotiated for the Miami engineers because of geographic differences between Florida and Washington.

Both sides have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is investigating the situation.  If they side with Boeing, SPEEA would have to use far more resources to negotiate on behalf of small bargaining units across the country.  If the union wins, Boeing’s job migration efforts would be much more costly and moving jobs out of the state of Washington — with the explicit intent of shipping them to states with lower wages and fewer worker protections — would be more difficult.

In April, the Seattle Times reported on internal documents which show the current strategy being used by Boeing is projected to save the company nearly $100 million a year:

Boeing expects to save more than $100 million a year by transferring 1,100 research engineering jobs out of the Puget Sound region and an additional 200 from Southern California to lower-pay locations, according to internal Boeing documents reviewed by The Seattle Times.

The documents show the company is willing to spend more than $150 million to implement the plan, laying off people and closing research labs here while moving the work to new engineering centers in Huntsville, Ala.; North Charleston, S.C.; and St. Louis.

For each engineering job moved away, management projects average annual savings of $60,000 in pay and benefits.

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