Boeing engineers dish on executive director’s dismissal

A “precipitating event” along with philosophical differences led four executive board members of Boeing’s engineering union to oust the group’s director.

On July 10, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace’s board voted 4-3 to terminate the contract of director Charles Bofferding.

In this week’s SPEEA News, SPEEA Treasurer Bob Wilkerson, Secretary Dave Baine, and Northwest vice presidents Michael Dunn and Jill Ritchey finally write about their decision to end Bofferding’s contract.

The discord among board members has raised concerns about the group’s upcoming negotiations with the Boeing Co.

Until their column appeared, Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey had remained tightlipped about the vote at the advice of SPEEA’s general counsel. They had referred previous Herald calls to SPEEA’s communications director, who reiterated that the four had been advised against talking to the media. The finalization of Bofferding’s severance agreement allowed Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey to offer a general account.

The four note that the dynamics of SPEEA’s board changed with elections earlier this year.

As a result, the majority now favors several operational changes, they wrote. A few of the changes worth noting:

• Board officers should “fulfill our duties … instead of referring them to the executive director and staff.”

• Avoid and defeat the decertification challenges SPEEA faced in the Midwest.

• Challenge Boeing’s management on outsourcing.

• Hold interim negotiations with Boeing to resolve outstanding issues from last contract.

The board “encountered disagreements with the executive director over the desirability and execution” of those reforms, the four wrote. Despite motions to clarify the board’s expectations of the director, “the situation did not improve.”

Lastly, the board heard of an impending staffing change – the precipitating event – which triggered the move to dismiss Bofferding, the four wrote.

SPEEA President Cynthia Cole, one of the three who voted against the director’s dismissal, has voiced displeasure over the way that Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey handled the situation. Cole has criticized them for making the decision essentially behind closed doors, for holding the meeting when Bofferding was unable to attend and for not having a transition plan in place.

The four countered several of Cole’s remarks in their Sept. 7 column.

They say the “necessity to preserve employer-employee confidentiality” prevented them from discussing their concerns about the director with other SPEEA members.

Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey pushed criticism back on Cole, along with Northwest Vice President Tom McCarty, saying the pair left the July 10 meeting before the board could establish an interim management plan. The four did not address specifically why the meeting was held without Bofferding in attendance.

“We hope members realize that their elected leaders acted to protect their interests and respect an employee for the service he provided,” they wrote.

Over the last two months, SPEEA members unhappy with Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey have submitted a petition, calling for members to decide board members’ future. The four now face a recall vote with ballots to be mailed by Sept. 28 and counted Oct. 17.

Worth noting: SPEEA’s communications committee approved the column submitted by Wilkerson, Baine, Dunn and Ritchey. The same committee rejected a column submitted by Cole, saying she broke a union policy that forbids the publishing of material critical of SPEEA or its members.

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