SPEEA ‘moving on’

  • By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10:44pm
  • Business

EVERETT — The union representing Boeing Co. engineers has seen more than its share of strife and turnover this year.

But the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace hopes to be back on track soon. Following the ousting of its executive director and the subsequent recall of four board members, SPEEA intends to fill the bulk of its leadership vacancies by early December. That should ensure all the key people are in place before the union begins contract negotiations with Boeing next year.

“We’re looking forward to moving on.” That was the sentiment expressed both by SPEEA President Cynthia Cole right after the recall vote and by Bill Dugovich, SPEEA’s communications director, again on Tuesday.

To do so, the engineers’ union still has five positions to fill: executive director, SPEEA secretary and three Northwest vice presidencies. All except the director sit on the executive board.

On Oct. 17, SPEEA members voted to recall the four executive members who got rid of the group’s executive director, Charles Bofferding, in July. Those four included Dave Baine, SPEEA secretary; Bob Wilkerson, SPEEA treasurer; and Mike Dunn and Jill Ritchey, who served as Northwest vice presidents.

Following the vote, the remaining three board members played musical chairs a bit with Tom McCarty, a Northwest vice president, stepping into the role of treasurer, and Cole becoming the acting executive director of the union. Cole will split time as acting director with Bob Rommel, assistant director.

The recall took place just as the union had planned to narrow down candidates for an executive director. The engineers’ union won’t begin interviews until at least three of the four executive board openings have been filled. SPEEA plans to name the three Northwest vice presidents during a regional council meeting Nov. 8.

As of Tuesday, SPEEA had received applications from 21 executive director candidates, including former director Bofferding.

Back in July, when Bofferding was forced out, he suggested that members may not have seen the last of him.

“If members believe this decision is in their best interests, it should stand,” Bofferding told the Associated Press. “If they don’t feel it is in their best interests, then they’ll find a way to do something about it.”

An attempt to prohibit former directors from filling the open position failed during a council meeting in early October.

SPEEA, which represents about 20,000 engineers and technical workers in the Puget Sound region, will begin talks with Boeing on a new three-year contract in 2008, just as the aerospace company hopes to deliver its delayed 787 Dreamliner jet. In 2000, the union went on strike for 40 days when negotiations with Boeing failed.

Boeing also heads into talks with the union representing the Machinists who build jets, like the 787, at the company’s factories around the Puget Sound region. During a conference call last week, Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney noted that the company won’t suffer major penalties from customers if it delivers jets late due to strike.

However, he said, “We do not want a work stoppage.”

Reporter Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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