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)

Union firefighters reject Boeing’s latest contract offer

The union’s 125 firefighters on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected the offer, which included “an improved wage growth” schedule

EVERETT — Union firefighters voted “overwhelmingly” Wednesday to reject Boeing’s latest contract offer, so a lockout continues, nearing its third week.

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.

On May 4, 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.

This is the third offer that union members have “overwhelmingly” rejected since their contract expired March 1, union leaders said.

“This round of negotiations resulted in Boeing presenting its second, ‘Best and Final Offer,’ a contradiction in terms, and a clear sign of the corporate giant’s complete lack of respect for our members,” IAFF General President Edward A. Kelly said in a statement.

“All this from a company that has benefited for years, receiving millions upon millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives as well as other government entitlements which have increased their bottom line,” Kelly continued.

In a statement late Wednesday, the company said, “It’s unfortunate the union’s leadership has continued its pattern of bad faith bargaining. The union earlier accepted and agreed to endorse our strong offer which provides an average of $21,000 in increased take home pay and additional wage increases.”

Before locking out union firefighters, Boeing said it hired “highly qualified firefighters” to safeguard its facilities.

“Our contingency plan remains in place and ensures that we can provide the same levels of safety and emergency response with highly qualified firefighters indefinitely,” the company statement continued.

In addition to yearly general wage increases, Wednesday’s rejected contract included a raise in the seniority wage growth from 50 cents to 60 cents. Firefighters currently receive a 50 cent per hour wage increase every six months. The offer raised the amount to 60 cents, a 20% increase, the company said.

However, union leaders said Local I-66 members earn up to 30% less than firefighters at nearby departments.

Boeing’s latest offer reduced the time it takes a firefighter to reach the top pay grade from 14 to 13 years. That’s still too long, the union said. The standard at most local fire departments is three to five years.

“Low pay and an extended seniority system perpetuate safety issues at Boeing, as fire fighters highly trained to respond to industrial accidents continue to leave the company,” the union said.

After Wednesday’s vote, union leaders urged Boeing “to come to the table with a proposal that seriously addresses safety and retention.”

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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