TUKWILA – In the lobby of SPEEA union headquarters, there are signs and piles of buttons for the taking, urging engineers and technicians to vote no on Boeing’s last best and final offer contract. The stated goal of the union, to try to get the company back to the table, and try to get the Boeing to back off from its position that new hires would move away from a traditional pension program to an enhanced 401k.
But yes or no on Boeing’s offer is not the only question on the ballot. The other asks for strike authorization, that would allow the union’s leadership to call for a walkout if new negotiations break down or if talks simply do not re-start. The leadership has not had strike authorization throughout negotiations.
A vote would decide if well over a year of negotiations and uncertainty would end, or if more uncertainty, including the possibility of the first strike in 13 years would commence. How would members vote?
“The majority of the membership is in this middle area,” said Everett-based engineer Becky Hewitt, who is also on SPEEA’s negotiating committee.
She leads some of the lunch time meetings the union is using to explain the contract offer. She gets lots of questions, as she says engineers and techs are a very analytical group.
Is anybody placing any bets on the outcome? “Not that I know of,” she says. “You can really see people thinking about this long and hard.”
There are no polls, no way to really know how people feel. In Boeing’s Bellevue offices, stress analyst Dan Peters says in his group of 30 engineers most people will vote to reject the offer.
“I would say it’s definitely over 50 percent. Maybe in the range of a two thirds majority.”
SPEEA decided to take Boeing’s last offer to a vote after the two sides agreed to extend most terms of the old contract, including five percent annual wage pool increases for both engineers and technicians. Boeing had proposed lower wage pool increases for techs.
Boeing also withdrew earlier proposals to have SPEEA members contribute more to medical care as other parts of the company already have. Both sides say the motivation was to make sure engineers were available to fix problems with the 787’s battery system and get the grounded fleet back in the air and begin delivering new jets to the airlines.
But Boeing refused to back off on its demands to move away from traditional pensions in favor of an enhanced 401k package for new hires, that the company says would be just as effective as a traditional pension, that the union contends would represent a 33 to 40 percent cut.
Also, Tuesday afternoon SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth told KING 5 News that he’s receiving more complaints from members saying some managers were threatening to withhold raises if members voted yes.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder says the company has received no such complaints from employees or the union.