Quality Magazine

SPEEA Members Reject Boeing's Offer for a New Contract

February 6, 2009

WICHITA, KS - Engineers said “No” to a contract offer from the Boeing Co. in voting yesterday, a move that sends both sides back to the bargaining table.

Following the recommendation of union negotiators, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001, voted down the Boeing offer at a special meeting held at Curtis Middle School. The tally showed 88% of the voting members rejected the offer, with 209 voting “No” and 28 voting “Yes” to accept Boeing’s offer for a new contract covering engineers at Boeing’s Wichita Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). Union tellers counted the votes at SPEEA’s Midwest office following the meeting. The ballot did not include a strike authorization vote. The union has 330 members eligible to vote on the contract.

With the offer rejected, SPEEA and Boeing are discussing when negotiations can resume. “We are ready to go back to the table and get an offer employees will be proud to accept,” said Bob Brewer, SPEEA Midwest director.

The company’s offer of 3% salary increase pools, increased out-of-pocket medical costs and elimination of the pension for new employees was in stark contrast to the contract recently negotiated for engineers in Washington, Oregon, California and Utah. Employees there secured raise pools totaling 20% over the next four years while maintaining medical coverage and the defined benefit pension for new employees.

The 700 SPEEA-represented engineers in the Wichita Engineering Unit (WEU) contract have worked under a contract extension since Dec. 5, when the existing contract was set to expire.

The Wichita contract usually mirrors the contract for engineers at the other locations. Union leaders said the aerospace giant took aim at Wichita engineers this year stalling talks, not responding to required data requests and offering a contract corporate negotiators thought was “just good enough” to be approved. Among the data requests Boeing stalled answering was a request for information about any plans to sell or divest the Wichita IDS plant. In 2005, Boeing sold its commercial airplane division in Wichita, a move that stripped many employees of key retirement benefits.

Engineers and technical workers around Boeing continue to wear their red union t-shirts each Wednesday to show support for Wichita engineers. On Wednesday, more than 500 engineers and technical workers rallied in Everett, WA.

“This offer was Chicago’s wish list for a contract,” says Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “By delivering a resounding rejection, members empowered their negotiation team to go back to the table and get the offer Wichita engineers deserve.”

Main table negotiations started Nov. 17. However, the two sides have only met on 13 days. Work at Wichita includes Italian and Japanese 767 tankers, E-4B (747 Airborne Operations Center) and E-737 Australian Wedgetail (Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft). The Italian tankers and Wedgetail are years behind schedule. While union members have jointly worked with management to secure the contract for the next aerial refueling tanker, the company refuses to commit to bringing the work to Wichita if Boeing secures the $35 billion contract with the Air Force.

A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents 24,600 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Triumph Composite Systems Inc., in Spokane, WA, and BAE Systems Inc., in Irving, TX.