TUKWILA -– Boeing and the union representing 15,000 engineers and technicians were back at the negotiating table Tuesday a day after 96 percent of voting union members rejected Boeing's contract proposal.
The overwhelming rejection was part of a change in strategy by the union’s leadership, which was frustrated by what they said was months of presentations leading up to a company proposal released last month. The leadership recommended the proposal be voted down.
The strategy was similar to one the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace pursued with Spirit Aero Systems, where a massive "no" vote on an initial contract proposal lead to what the union considered a much better contract offer that was easily ratified.
Both sides met for several hours Monday afternoon, what the union called setting the stage for “renewed negotiations.” In a message to employees, Boeing’s negotiating team said, “We acknowledged to your bargaining team your rejection of our initial proposal. We shared our intention to listen to your bargaining team in order to understand your objections, answer your questions and consider alternatives.”
Boeing has said it’s trying to keep its engineers and technicians among the best paid in the industry, without making itself less competitive with other aerospace companies.
Already there is some movement. The company said it will revert to old contract language that protects medical benefits for retirees. And the company is withdrawing contract language that many SPEEA members said could eliminate life and disability insurance for those people on active military leave for longer than three months.