Some dissent emerges on new engineering contract with Boeing

“This is being shoved down our throats,” said one SPEEA council rep.

By Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times

Some dissent among rank-and-file members of Boeing’s engineering union emerged Friday morning in reaction to the tentative new contract deal agreed on late Thursday with company management.

The leadership of SPEEA, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, announced Thursday evening a proposal to extend the current contract by four years, to 2026, and said it would recommend the deal to its 18,000 members.

But SPEEA’s union council reps, who deal more directly with the rank-and-file employees, declined to endorse the proposal.

SPEEA staff and the seven-member executive board had been negotiating with management under nondisclosure agreements, and revealed the details of the proposed contract only on Thursday afternoon to the union council reps, the foot soldiers who represent the union to their members in the offices and on the factory floor.

SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said Friday the union’s engineering council reps voted 35 to 24 against recommending approval of the deal, while the technical staff council reps voted 20 to 13 against. But neither group reached a decisive vote to recommend rejecting the contract.

That means the deal will go to a vote with a recommendation from the elected leadership to approve it, and no recommendation one way or the other from the bargaining unit councils.

One SPEEA council rep for the technical staff, who asked for anonymity because of the level of emotion around the issue, reacted angrily to the union’s announcement of the deal without registering the dissent. “This is being shoved down our throats,” he said.

He objected to the union agreeing in secrecy to a deal two years ahead of the current contract’s expiration, arguing that this suits Boeing but removes the union’s negotiating leverage.

Goforth in response called the proposal “a fantastic offer” and said he’s received positive feedback from members on Friday.

The proposed contract changes the formula Boeing uses to distribute compensation, which the union had objected to, and provides 5.5% total compensation increases in raises and bonuses each year for the next two years, then 5% in 2022, and 4.5% for each of the subsequent four years.

The deal also increases the annual bonus payout formula. And it introduces 12 weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave as well as eligibility for the state’s Family and Medical Leave benefits.

The percentage of their medical costs paid by SPEEA members will increase in 2023 from 5% in the current contract to either 6%, 9% or 12%, depending on salary level.

Ballots will be mailed to SPEEA members on February 21 and the votes will be counted March 9.

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