By BRYAN CORLISS
As many as 3,000 Boeing engineering and technical workers have until the weekend to turn in some paperwork or face the risk of being fired.
The Saturday deadline is the result of new "agency fees" imposed by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace in the wake of this year’s strike against Boeing.
As part of the settlement, SPEEA won the right to collect the fees from the roughly 6,000 engineers and technicians who receive union-negotiated pay raises and benefits without belonging to the union and paying dues.
Those workers now must decide whether they want to join and become full voting members of the union, or pay the agency fee — an amount equal to the regular monthly dues of $22.81.
The federal law that allows for agency fees also allows workers to opt out, as either conscientious or religious objectors to unions, by making partial payments to the union or full payments to charities.
As of the last count, during the middle of last week, about half of the workers involved had returned the forms indicating whether they planned to join the union, pay the fee or become an objector, union spokesman Bill Dugovich said. He didn’t have an updated count on Monday, but said hundreds more forms are being processed every day.
Neither Boeing nor the union wants to see anyone lose their job over this issue, spokesmen for both sides said.
"That’s obviously not the desired outcome," Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said. "Boeing and SPEEA aren’t going on a hunt to terminate employees. Quite the opposite."
Originally the deadline had been set at Sept. 8, Dugovich noted. "We’ve let that slide."
Both Boeing and the union have sent out recent mailings to remind workers of the deadline. The union’s latest package, aimed at those who hadn’t decided, went out Friday. The mailing included blank forms and instructions on how to fill them out.
"We’re really trying to do everything we can to make it easy for folks, so they can get it taken care of and not have to worry about it anymore," Dugovich said.
The forms must be postmarked by Saturday, he said.
Boeing’s machinists’ and teamsters’ unions have existing agency fee clauses in their contracts. It’s rare that an employee loses his or her job over the issue, Conte said.
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