Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
With a contract vote looming, Boeing Co. engineers and technical workers will rally today at various sites across the Puget Sound region.
Even retired members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace will join in, holding an “informational picket” outside Boeing’s corporate office in Seattle from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Here in Everett and around the region, the union is holding lunchtime rallies, encouraging members to wear their red SPEEA shirts as a sign of solidarity.
The union demonstrations come just a few days before the 5 p.m., Oct. 1 deadline for SPEEA members to vote on a labor contract offered by Boeing. SPEEA leaders have urged members to reject the company’s offer. Boeing officials previously have accused SPEEA of abandoning negotiations and have called their offer “market-leading.”
SPEEA’s 22,765 members design and test Boeing aircraft. The union’s contract expires Oct. 6.
Union negotiators say that Boeing’s contract would provide members with the worst wage increases SPEEA has seen since 1975. Boeing’s plan to switch new members to a 401k retirement plan rather than a defined pension is another sticking point. The union also says the company wants to do away with medical benefits for retirees, who currently receive medical coverage between the ages of 55 and 65.
That’s the reason retired SPEEA members will be in Seattle today.
“After 32 years working at Boeing I had a promise that this health care coverage would be there for me,” Cynthia Cole, past SPEEA president who retired from Boeing in 2010, said in a statement.
Boeing has denied that it’s trying to take away retiree health care and disputed other SPEEA claims.
“If we’d had the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the union, we could have clarified that we did not intend to change the status quo with respect to retiree medical benefits. Regrettably, SPEEA has chosen to sensationalize the issue and cause unnecessary concern,” the company said on Wednesday.
In message to SPEEA members on Tuesday, Boeing encouraged workers to ask questions online at its negotiations website, which the company is using as its “primary vehicle” for communication. Boeing noted the popularity of the negotiations site, saying the site has received 14,000 visits since Sept. 20.
“We look forward to finalizing an agreement with your negotiating team. We recognize that you have elected them to represent you in this process,” Boeing negotiators said in their message.
Should the union vote down Boeing’s offer, SPEEA would not go out on strike. The union and company likely would extend their contract and return to negotiations.