SPEEA-Boeing dispute appears headed for work slowdown

SPEEA union members are quietly gearing up for a “work-to-the-rules” approach that could amount to a work slowdown as voting begins on a contract offer by the company.

SPEEA’s negotiating team recommends a “no” vote on the contract.

“Work-to-the-rules” is a common labor tactic when union members want to make a point to the company before resorting to the draconian step of a strike. The tactic is common in the airline industry.

Labor contracts and corporate policies usually lay out precise work rules and methods of doing tasks. In practice, however, labor often finds more efficient procedures and short-cuts that may not follow the letter of the contract or policy. Tossing these overboard and working to the rules usually winds up slowing productivity.

In this case, it’s unclear how widespread the action may be–it could only be pockets of workers at this point but it certainly could spread throughout the workforce if negotiations continue to be difficult.

Update, 430 PM PDT: Boeing issued this statement to SPEEA members:

Boeing’s response to SPEEA contract vote

As you know, last week Boeing passed its initial contract proposal to the SPEEA negotiating team. In an unprecedented departure from the normal negotiating process, the SPEEA negotiating team, without any discussion or clarification, elected to put the proposal directly to a vote by its members.

Our proposal provides both market-leading retirement and medical benefits, and competitive wage increases all four years of the contract. However, the SPEEA negotiating committee’s decision to abandon the negotiation process has denied us the opportunity to come to a mutual understanding about our proposal.

There should be no question about the respect we have for our engineering and technical workforce. We’ve made proposals supported by facts and data relevant to our employees and our business. We have respected the role of the SPEEA negotiating team and have taken the process seriously. We’re all on the same team designing, developing and producing airplanes, and it appears to us that some have repeatedly tried to provoke an emotional response by creating a perception of mistrust and disrespect. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

SPEEA’s proposal summary misrepresents components of our proposal and we sincerely hope this reflects a misunderstanding or a miscommunication rather than a deliberate distortion. We expressed our willingness to meet throughout this week with SPEEA’s negotiating team in order to hear the union’s response, answer questions and discuss any counterproposals – especially since we have time left before contract expiration. The SPEEA negotiations team, for their own reasons, made a decision to cease negotiations and use this unconventional approach.

We will continue to share and clarify with you details of our proposal in the days ahead in order to clear up any confusion created by the absence of meaningful discussion. We will send updates and also encourage you to visit the Boeing negotiations website regularly to check for updates and clarification about our proposal.

Julie-Ellen Acosta, vice president, Human Resources, Commercial Airplanes

Conrad Ball, Functional Engineering director, Boeing Military Aircraft

Mark Burgess, chief engineer, Engineering, Operations & Technology

Mike Delaney, vice president, Engineering, Commercial Airplanes

Gene Woloshyn, vice president, Employee Relations, Boeing

Todd Zarfos, vice president, Engineering – Commercial Aviation Services, senior chief engineer of Support

SPEEA issued this press release:

SPEEA wants to protect members on military leave from Boeing cuts


SEATTLE – At a time when the United States is engaged in the longest running conflict in its history, The Boeing Company wants to eliminate the ability of engineers and technical workers on military leave to buy important disability and life insurance coverage at the company’s discounted rates.

The action is tucked inside Boeing’s contract offers to 23,000 engineers and technical workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. SPEEA’s Professional and Technical Unit Negotiation Teams, along with their governing bargaining unit councils recommend members reject the offers. Ballots go out later this week. Contracts expire Oct. 6.

“This is a cut that is offensive beyond measure,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “Allowing military personnel to buy insurance at discount rates costs Boeing nothing. As a union, we cannot allow these cuts to stand.”

Boeing made no mention during negotiations of benefits for employees on Military Leave of Absence. The company’s offer deletes an entire document that covers a wide variety of medical, insurance and other benefits. Boeing wants to use Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD) to address the benefits and items. After close examination, SPEEA discovered the SPDs remove the ability for individuals on military leave to buy and/or extend their Boeing long-term disability or basic life insurance after three months. Technically outside the legally binding contract, SPDs can be changed at any time by the company without informing the union.

“Eliminating the ability of our war fighters to buy these products is just one more example of the gratuitous take-a-ways Boeing has put in these contract offers,” Goforth said. “I am shocked by the degree of corporate arrogance that prompts Boeing to start cutting the benefits of individuals serving our country.”

At a time when the company is soaring with record profits, Goforth said corporate leaders are engaging in a wholesale grab of everything they can get from engineers and technical workers.

The union vote is a straight “Reject” or “Accept” of the Boeing contract offers. Union officials said a strong rejection should make it clear to Boeing that it must stop attacking engineers and technical workers and return to negotiations ready to negotiate.

While the majority of covered employees are in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, these SPEEA Professional and Technical contracts also cover employees in Oregon, Utah and California.

A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents 26,560 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, and Triumph Composite Systems, Inc. in Spokane, Wash.

19 Comments on “SPEEA-Boeing dispute appears headed for work slowdown

  1. FWIW – ita a pretty good bet that IF SPEEA strikes- the IAM will also work to rule simply because they MUST have a timely sign off by Enginers on certain assembly and Q/C items BEFORE the next stage of assembly or test.

    Harry stoneciper thought he could work around that problem – FAA didnt agree then – and are unlikely to agree now.

  2. Sounds like the troops are preparing for battle. The SPEEA vote will be the first skirmish but that has been anticipated.

    Now the question is what maneuvers and white flags can be put in place to call off this engagement.

    I am still hoping that 3 Star General BCA Ray Conner will appear on the front lines and negotiate some compromises and agreements that will eliminate a serious confrontation and all the troops ( on both sides) can return to work and productivity

  3. It’s weird, the only place I ever read or hear about any of this stuff is on this website.

    • To clarify I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m saying that the strategic communications to the workforce by both sides is being poorly run.

      • Point taken but Boeing prohibits SPEEA from sending mass emails into the workplace. SPEEA is holding lunchtime meetings to speak with people but for the most part, members will have to read what is mailed to their homes or sign up for one of the communication channels from the union:

        1) home email list
        2) twitter
        3) facebook
        4) website
        5) text messaging


  4. A shame that the Boeing team is taking this path. Quiet funny that they complain about the vote, wasn’t it what they were threatening SPEEA?

    • Golly, thanks, Don, you’re a real lifesaver.
      My point wasn’t that I don’t get the information, it’s that if the union expects to wage an effective campaign their information operations can’t be confined to facebook and their own freaking website.

  5. I am a SPEEA member and I have about 8 years in as an Engineer and sending the current offer to a member vote is confusing me a bit. It was Boeing’s first draft of an offer and usually there is some back and forth. I certainly hope some cooler heads prevail, on both sides.

    • V —–to eliminate the confusion – I suggest that you take time to read the SPEEA Governing Documents which are on the speea site Most of process is spelled out in the Constitution.

      While these documents were always available to members who asked, it was in the early 2000’s before they were posted online, and in the mid 2000’s before they were submitted to DOL as required. The DOL does not check them unless a issue arises. Ditto for the IRS.

  6. Hmmm, SPEEA accusing Boeing of taking things away in a not so transparent manner, and using the military, always a soft spot for Americans, as th primary victims versus Boeing surprisingly not accusing SPEEA of negotiating in good faith, rather of not negotiating at all!!
    If true, a surprising new tactic.

    All in all, it does not look good for a quick and harmonious settlement.

    This could throw Boeing’s plans of a quick 787 ramp up somewhat oout of whack.

  7. V :I am a SPEEA member and I have about 8 years in as an Engineer and sending the current offer to a member vote is confusing me a bit. It was Boeing’s first draft of an offer and usually there is some back and forth. I certainly hope some cooler heads prevail, on both sides.

    This seems to raise the ante in this high stakes poker game. Unless there is some back door negotiation taking place, this pushes the ability to negotiate an Agreement to only a few days before expiration on Oct 6th. Of course, the expiration could be extended but the pressure has been intensified by SPEEA and accelerates the ability to make tradeoffs. I too hope some cooler heads are present and continued dialogue is still possible.

    • The world doesn’t end if the contract expires. SPEEA has requested that Boeing return to negotiations October 2nd (the day after the votes are counted).

      The Boeing negotiating team told the SPEEA negotiating team that they were out of touch with the members and that management knew what the members wanted better than the union. They then gave a proposal. Given that Boeing wouldn’t listen to the union negotiating team, the union decided to put the offer to a vote of the membership.

      If Boeing is correct, the members will accept the offer.

      If SPEEA is correct, the members will overwhelmingly reject the offer.

      If SPEEA turns out to be right, then that will be a giant signal to Boeing that it must abandon how it is negotiating and start working with SPEEA to find a mutually acceptable agreement.

      Here’s the letter from the SPEEA negotiating team explaining this to Boeing.


      • SPEEAInsider,

        Seems like a strategic strategy because the first draft of a proposal which is generally revised and resubmitted as part of the negotiations would, of course, be rejected. However, it places increase pressure on the deliberative process following the vote with the stated leverage that “Boeing must abandon how it is negotiating and start working with SPEEA to find a mutually acceptable agreement.”

        I thought that is what was supposed to occur following the submission of its proposed contract. Note the confusion that SPEEA member V expresses above.

        This seems like an unusual opening move in a chess game but it will be followed by some hard play afterwards. Again, I hope that regardless of the outcome, both parties will manage to be reaalistic and try to find reasonable mutually acceptable terms to satisfy the Professional engineers and Tech workers and enable the Company to compete and grow.

      • P.S. Let me express that as a shareholder the price of the stock has reflected the mistakes of the past as well as a hesitant value for the future.

        There are many challenges ahead and remaining questions as to the economy and the diminishing rate of sales. The number of engineers available for work requires project outsourcing and moving engineering work to other less expensive parts of the country is an attraction. Many Companies and other industries have taken that path.

        Within that framework is grounds for compromise and adjustment. But until both parties feel they are respected and their points understood this type of accomodation becomes harder to achieve.

  8. BREAKING NEWS: SPEEA should take note of the Agreement reached by Verizon and the Communication Workers of America and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ( representing 45,000 employees) that includes many of the proposals put forth by Boeing: New Hires will not participate in the Company’s pension plan ( although present workers will) but will have a 401k pension; workers will contribute more for medical coverage; salary raises will be for 8% over 4 years.

    Although not identical issues, this shows the acceptance of changes in the American workplace that should not be dismissed as “disrespect” There is a new economy and a new reality that has to be faced.

  9. SPEEA offered their proposal in June. Rather than offering a counter proposal, Boeing started educating SPEEA and members of SPEEA about cuts all around, compared to the last contract. Not once were we informed of discussion on SPEEA’s proposals or actual negotiation taking place. We received several emails from offended management folks saying that our great endeavors as a team were respected, followed by information showing additional cuts to our current contract. We also received messages from SPEEA’s Executives of the travesties taking place during negotiations Then one week from voting on a contract we received Boeing’s full proposal. Why did Boeing sandbag three months to negotiate? They already knew what they planed to offer. Why are they offended or even surprised SPEEA won’t negotiate in the last week? While I do not necessarily agree with SPEEA denying negotiations on the last week available, I have little sympathy for a company that waited for the last week to supply an offer. Both sides seem to be crying victim. This frustrates me and I do not look forward to the battle ahead. Whatever does happen, both sides will declare victory. Why not just offer something both sides can accept? I just want to get a fair contract, I am sickened by all the posturing from both sides. I just wish cooler heads could prevail.

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