Boeing Engineers’ Union Says Company Softened Its Approach In Recent Negotiations

Feb 15, 2016

About 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of them in Washington state, have just a couple more days left to vote on a new six-year contract. The head of their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), says the negotiations that led to the tentative contract agreement mark a shift in Boeing’s approach to labor issues. 

Boeing’s previous chief executive, Jim McNerney, took a hard-line stance toward unions. In 2013, during the previous contract negotiations, relations between the company and SPEEA members grew so contentious that the workers almost went on strike. Later that year, the company engaged in a bitter fight with its machinists’ union.

Now, Boeing has a new CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, and SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said that’s made a big difference.

"The approach that the company brought to these negotiations was much more positive. It was much more trying to focus on solving the underlying problem," he said. "I think the company probably has the perspective that SPEEA also brought a more productive approach to these negotiations."

The two sides started meeting early and in secret well before the contract expires this October. Under the deal, members’ pensions would still grow, but at a slower rate. The agreement also includes more generous severance packages in case Boeing decides to move work elsewhere.