IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

EVERETT — Boeing and its union firefighters resumed bargaining this week, after the company locked them out of its Everett, Seattle area and Moses Lake facilities two weeks ago.

About 125 Boeing firefighters, who are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local I-66, are seeking a contract that includes competitive pay and better staffing.

Talks took place on Monday and Wednesday, and they were scheduled to resume next Monday, Boeing said in a statement to managers it shared with The Daily Herald.

“We once again returned to the bargaining table on May 15 with the assistance of a federal mediator in the hopes of ending the lockout. We remain committed to reaching a deal,” Wednesday’s statement said.

But so far, negotiations seem tense, with both sides accusing the other of bargaining in bad faith. And the lockout continues.

Boeing said it met a union proposal Wednesday with a counteroffer, but “continuing their pattern of bad faith bargaining, they (the union) refused to put our offer to a membership vote or even provide a counteroffer.”

“While our team is ready to meet at any time, for reasons unknown to us, the union informed us they are not available to meet again until May 20,” the statement continued.

“The ball is in their court,” a Boeing spokesperson said.

In an email Thursday, Local I-66 President Casey Yeager said: “There have been some talks and we’re going to continue our talks on Monday.”

“Put your front line safety workers back on the job, and give them a fair contract. Let’s get back to improving The Boeing Company and stop with the games,” Local I-66 posted this week on its social media page.

The union’s contract expired March 1, but firefighters stayed on the job while negotiations were underway. Firefighters have rejected two previous contract offers.

Union leaders said they were negotiating a third potential contract when the company hired replacement firefighters and locked them out May 4.

Since then, firefighters and their supporters have held round-the-clock information pickets near Boeing facilities, including the company’s wide body assembly plant at Paine Field. About 40 firefighters work at the Everett plant.

On Thursday morning, half a dozen firefighters, joined by members of other Boeing unions, gathered outside a small blue tent on the northwest corner of Airport Way and Kasch Park Road and waved signs that said: “End the Boeing Lock-Out. Fighting For Your Safety.”

Firefighter Ollie Ponte, who has been a Boeing firefighter for nearly five years, said union members were told Thursday morning that Local I-66 and Boeing were at the bargaining table this week, and that they’ll meet again Monday.

“The money has stopped. We got our last checks this week. In the coming weeks, we’ll just be getting unemployment,” said Ponte, standing in front of a 6-foot long banner that read, “Tell Boeing To Stop Putting Profits Before Safety.”

Ponte and other firefighters have been staffing the union rallying point for six to eight hours a day.

“We’re hopeful that we can work with the company so that we can get back to work,” he said.

At a time when Boeing could face criminal prosecution for allegedly violating a 2021 federal settlement over two deadly crashes in 2019 and 2020 involving the 737 MAX, union leaders said locking out firefighters is yet another safety issue that endangers the company’s facilities and workers.

The lockout has drawn national attention. Last week, President Biden weighed in on the labor dispute in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, and called on both sides to return to the bargaining table.

On Monday, union leaders and lawmakers rallied outside Boeing headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. IAFF President Edward Kelly, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle, an Oregon Democrat, urged Boeing to make a deal, according to a Reuters report.

The sticking points include pay, which union officials say is about 20% lower than local fire departments, and a provision that requires firefighters work 19 years before reaching the company’s highest pay grade. That’s up from 14 years in the current contract. Union officials want to reduce it to six years, which is closer to the three- to five-year span at regional fire departments.

Private industrial fire departments, like the one Boeing maintains, are common among the mining, chemical, oil and gas and aviation industries.

Boeing firefighters are present whenever a Boeing-built aircraft is fueled or takes off on a test or delivery flight. Firefighters also provide emergency medical services and conduct regular safety inspections at Boeing facilities. In an emergency, they cover the initial response and then coordinate with municipal firefighters. Municipal firefighters then assume command of the incident and have jurisdiction, the company said.

Boeing said its “highly competitive and market based” compensation package is in line with the pay at industrial fire departments. The company also said the union’s proposal, putting firefighters at the top of the pay scale within six years, is inconsistent with industrial and corporate fire departments.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Over half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists were handed walking papers Wednesday, in a wave of layoffs mandated by new owners, Carpenter Media Group.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.