Boeing union seeks new leader

EVERETT Wanted: a leader to unite the Boeing Co.’s engineers.

The labor union that represents Boeing’s engineers and technical workers in the Puget Sound region finally reached a settlement agreement with its former executive director Charles Bofferding nearly two months after terminating his contract. As the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace searches for a new executive director, the group could oust the majority of its executive board. All this comes just months before SPEEA picks the negotiating team that will head into contract talks with Boeing next year.

“I think this is a critical time for SPEEA,” Bofferding said, during an interview Friday.

But Bofferding suggests the recent turmoil will only make the union stronger in its negotiations with Boeing in 2008.

“I think it would be a mistake to see this as a weakness,” he said.

On July 10, SPEEA’s executive board voted 4-3 to end Bofferding’s contract. The separation agreement between SPEEA and Bofferding became final Thursday.

As other SPEEA members have noted, Bofferding pointed to differing management philosophies among the board. It’s a good time for SPEEA members to decide which philosophy should guide the union in the future, he said.

Over the next month or more, SPEEA members will get the opportunity to have their say when faced with a petition to recall the four executive board members who voted to get rid of Bofferding.

It’s a chance to let democracy work at SPEEA and send a message to other labor unions, Bofferding said.

“It’s an opportunity to show that at the end of the day members can be in control,” he said.

SPEEA hasn’t announced yet when those ballots will go out to members, said Bill Dugovich, SPEEA spokesman and interim chief of staff.

“We’re working on the timeline,” he said.

Of the four executive board members facing recall, two Mike Dunn and Jill Ritchey were elected as recently as March. Both serve as Northwest regional vice presidents on SPEEA’s executive board. In 2002, Dunn was recalled from the SPEEA executive board. In that instance, the council voted to replace him.

In early August, a motion to recall Dunn along with Ritchey failed to garner the two-thirds majority vote it needed from the Northwest Council. Petitions, containing signatures from at least 10 percent of SPEEA’s members, were submitted in mid-August triggering the recall process.

The recall also affects SPEEA’s secretary and treasurer, Dave Baine and Bob Wilkerson, respectively. Both were elected to two-year terms in March 2006.

The engineers union likely will send out pro and con statements with the recall ballots.

Among the concerns that could be raised about recalling board members is the precedent it sets. Ousting board members in the middle of the relatively short terms they serve of two years could discourage others from serving on the board for fear of being yanked for making an unpopular decision.

Those in favor of the recall might point to the approach the four took in getting rid of Bofferding. The move happened during what had been advertised as a closed meeting. No item of the sorts was on the agenda. Bofferding was not on hand, and no succession plan was in place.

Should a board member be recalled, SPEEA’s council would appoint a replacement to finish out the person’s term.

SPEEA intends to hire a new executive director in November, creating the possibility that new board members could play a role in the hiring process.

For his part, Bofferding suggests the group a strong, inspirational leader who shares the values and principles of SPEEA’s members.

“You have to be able to give yourself to the union,” he said. “You have to be able to put what’s best for the organization ahead of what’s best for yourself.”

Reporter Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or

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