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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 49
Still no deal at Boeing
Section One
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Still no deal at Boeing

Talks on same-sex spousal benefits suspended until 2013

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Contract negotiations between Boeing and SPEEA, the union that represents 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, were suspended December 5 without agreement on pension survivor benefits for spouses of the company's Gay and Lesbian employees.

George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), said talks would not resume until January.

'At the request of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, negotiations between The Boeing Company and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, are being suspended until after the first of the year,' FMCS said in a statement. 'Both sides agreed to this mediator request. In the interim, the FMCS will be in discussion with the parties to schedule resumption of negotiations.'

STRIKE SANCTION APPROVED
On the same day that FMCS announced suspension of the talks, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council (MLKCLC) voted to give SPEEA strike sanction in the event negotiations break down.

Boeing set off a firestorm on November 21 when it informed SPEEA negotiators that it would not offer same-sex spouses the same pension survivor benefits given to opposite-sex spouses - despite the passage of Referendum 74, which granted equal legal standing to same-sex marriages in Washington. Survivor benefits allow retired Boeing employees to provide financial support for their spouses even after they have died.

SPEEA member Kenneth Aphibal immediately posted a petition on Change.org calling on the company 'to honor the people of Washington State by extending survivor benefits to employees of same-sex married couples at Contract Negotiations and show equality for all Boeing employees.' The petition now has nearly 5,000 signatures.

SPEEA charges that Boeing wants to eliminate all defined-benefit pensions, beginning with new hires, and eventually terminate its pension program altogether. In addition to pensions, outstanding issues in the talks include wages, medical insurance, family leave, and the company's use of outside contractors.

To date, SPEEA has emphasized it is 'doing everything possible to avoid the need for a work stoppage,' but barring some movement in the negotiations it may be impossible to avert a strike.

GROWING TENSION
SPEEA members told SGN that the mood is 'like 2000,' when union members walked out for 40 days. Feelings against the company are so high that union leaders had to send out a letter on December 1 asking members to ignore calls for a wildcat strike, according to SPEEA executive director Ray Goforth.

A wildcat strike is one without official sanction, and is not protected by law. Once a central labor council sanctions a strike, strikers are protected against retaliation by the employer. The strike sanction granted by the MLKCLC allows SPEEA to ask its members to authorize a strike, and if they do, to stop work.

SPEEA and Boeing have been in negotiations since April. On October 1, more than 95% of SPEEA members voted to reject a new contract offer from the company. The existing contract expired later that month, but the two sides agreed to a temporary extension that expired November 25.

Boeing negotiators walked out of talks November 29 as SPEEA was presenting a pension proposal. Talks reconvened with a federal mediator on December 4.

SPEEA has filed several unfair labor practice complaints charging Boeing with illegally withholding cost data necessary to the negotiations, and with surveillance and harassment of union members.

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SGN endorses State Senator Ed Murray's 2013 campaign for Mayor
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