Firefighter Kyle Liston pickets outside of Boeing on Airport Road as the lockout of IAFF Local I-66 Boeing Firefighters approaches two weeks on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The firefighters and other local unions are picketing 24/7 outside an entrance to Boeing’s facility. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Firefighter Kyle Liston pickets outside of Boeing on Airport Road as the lockout of IAFF Local I-66 Boeing Firefighters approaches two weeks on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The firefighters and other local unions are picketing 24/7 outside an entrance to Boeing’s facility. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

After lockout, firefighter union approves Boeing’s latest contract offer

With a contract ratified, Boeing’s firefighters said they’ll get “fair pay for their critical work.” They’ll return to work this week.

EVERETT — Union firefighters approved Boeing’s latest contract offer Thursday, ending a contentious negotiation cycle in which union members overwhelmingly rejected the previous three offers and the company locked out its firefighters.

After their contract expired in March, more than 125 Boeing firefighters — members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local I-66 — sought a deal from the aerospace giant that included competitive pay and better staffing.

With the contract ratified, Boeing’s four-week lockout will end and firefighters will return to work Saturday.

“The final vote tally was 86 in favor and 24 opposed. With the contract approved, the firefighters who protect Boeing Co’s Washington State facilities expect to return to work on Saturday,” union leaders said Thursday afternoon in a statement.

“Boeing Local I-66 fire fighters stood tall in the face of a multi-billion-dollar company trying to break their ranks,” IAFF General President Edward Kelly said in the statement. “The entirety of the Labor Movement stood with them, as did President Joe Biden, who called on Boeing to give fire fighters better pay and benefits.”

Under the four-year deal, firefighters will receive 2% and 3% annual raises through 2027. On average, the contract increases pay up to $21,216 a year without a change in work requirements and guarantees four hours of overtime for each 24-hour shift worked. Firefighters will receive a 65 cent raise every six months, instead of the current 50 cents, and will reach the top pay grade after 10 years instead of the current 14.

“We’re grateful our rank-and-file members got the contract they deserve, one that provides them with fair pay for their critical work,” Kelly said. “This is why collective bargaining matters — it gives workers a voice at the table and strengthens our country’s middle class.”

In a statement Thursday evening Boeing said, “We’re pleased our firefighters have ratified a new contract and look forward to them returning to work.”

Bargaining talks began in February, but after union members rejected the second contract in early May, Boeing locked them out of its Everett, Seattle area and Moses Lake facilities.

About 40 firefighters work at the company’s Everett assembly plant at Paine Field. During the lockout, the company relied on replacement firefighters to safeguard its facilities.

The talks, aided by a federal mediator, with the planemaker’s Washington-based firefighters drew national attention.

Before a scheduled visit to Seattle earlier this month, Biden expressed support for the firefighters on the social media platform X, saying he was “concerned” that Boeing had locked them out. Others criticized Boeing’s decision to lock out firefighters as another lapse in the company’s safety culture, under scrutiny from federal regulators and the airline industry.

Boeing’s specialized firefighters provide emergency medical services and conduct regular safety inspections at Boeing facilities. They are also present every time a Boeing-built aircraft is fueled or takes off on a test or delivery flight.

During negotiations, the two sides squared off over wages — union officials said Boeing firefighters receive up to 20% less than local fire departments — and Boeing’s requirement that firefighters work 14 years before reaching the top pay level.

Firefighters and their supporters have held round-the-clock informational pickets near Boeing facilities, including the company’s wide-body assembly plant at Paine Field.

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

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