SPEEA-Boeing talks resume today; grim outlook

Flashback to 2000 strike: KPLU takes a look.

The war of words resumed yesterday in advance of contract talks that restart today at 1pm PT in Seattle between Boeing and its engineers’ union, SPEEA.

Even before parties reconvened, SPEEA yesterday issued a press statement outlining demonstrations to take place today:

Wednesday’s ‘Day of Action’ events are expected to draw from dozens at small sites to hundreds and thousands of SPEEA members walking inside and outside Boeing facilities in Renton and Everett. Boeing has drawn three Unfair Labor Practice Charges (ULPs) for videotaping and photographing union members at the events, confiscating cameras and the photographs they held. All of the marches have been peaceful. The ULPs are awaiting action before the National Labor Relations Board.

Both sides want an agreement without a strike, but SPEEA has been vocal for weeks, predicting talks will break down almost immediately because—in its view—the two sides are too far apart.

Boeing has a different view. The company notes that SPEEA at one point offered to extend its current contract, which Boeing rejected in part because health care and pension costs would remain unchanged. But the company points out that the current contract includes a 5% annual raise while Boeing’s current offer is 4.5%–just one-half of one percent apart. SPEEA has asked for 6% in the current negotiations.

Where the real differences appear to be are over those pesky health care and pension costs. SPEEA asserts that Boeing is asking for too much in the way of co-pays and other medical costs and that by changing the retirement plan from a defined benefit program to a define contribution to a 401(k), any raises offered by Boeing are negated and in effect result in losing money.

Boeing takes issue with this, saying that over the life of its contract offer, SPEEA engineers will receive $17,000 in raises and spend $5,000 in added medical costs.

As for the retirement plan, Boeing says the proposal for switching to a defined contribution to a 401(k) will be for new-hires only. Non-union employees throughout the company are on a 401(k) plan.

We view the current situation as grim. We think Boeing Chicago is misunderstanding the mood of SPEEA members, just as it did in the contract vote in October and as it did with IAM 751 in 2008.

But as we’ve written before, as one who pays 100% of our medical and retirement costs, we have little sympathy for Boeing wanting SPEEA members to pony up a greater share of health care costs. We also believe that defined benefit plans have unrealistic federal ROI assumptions that place an undue burden on companies. Update: we certainly muddled this statement. We’ve previously written that we have little sympathy for SPEEA not wanting to pony up more of its own health care costs, and this is our position.

At the same time, we recognize that SPEEA–along with the IAM–saved Boeing’s bacon during the debacles of the 787 and 747-8 development, and it’s also clear that neither program is running smoothly just yet.

We also believe that profit sharing, such as that proposed by Boeing, is a good employee incentive. But we also believe that Boeing Chicago tends to trend toward being too anti-union for its own good.

We don’t think there will be a quick resolution as talks resume today. SPEEA is planning job actions and it is making plans to shut down deliveries as soon as a strike occurs. The 42-day SPEEA strike in 2000 saw 50 fewer deliveries at a time when production rates were far less than today.

We hope cooler heads prevail, but we’re not counting on it.

8 Comments on “SPEEA-Boeing talks resume today; grim outlook

  1. Providing 100% of your medical and retirement costs, I would think you would be more aware of the enormus cost this represents to a company the size of Boeing. The only way we are going to cut the cost of healthcare in the US is for the users to have skin in the game. And being the highest paid assembly line workers in the world, it’s not like they can’t afford the small increase in copays being offered. As for the retirement, I realize more income from my 401k benefits than from my defined benefit plan.

  2. more ino on strike issues


    Q: Is Boeing proposing to take away retiree medical benefits?

    A: Boeing has no plans to eliminate retiree medical benefits for current retirees. If we’d had the opportunity to discuss our proposal with SPEEA, we could have clarified that we did not intend to change the status quo with respect to retiree medical benefits. Regrettably, SPEEA has chosen to sensationalize the issue and cause unnecessary concern.
    Boeing now charges everyone ( current and former SPEEA types who have funds in Boeing) a 50 cent per month fee for software access ( Portfolio Theory stuff ). Which may be fine for those who are OVER one year from retirement. But which is totally worthless and unusable for anyone who IS retired. And with ING which is NOT the lowest cost such provider for in house funds.

    SPEEA is the ONLY union who fell for the wording which allowed Boeing to include all former bargaining unit members, agency fee payers, etc back to day one without notice.
    Retirees of course have no recourse and SPEEA or any union cannot strike over such issues

    IMHO- The depth of Boeing deception is lower than a snakes butt in a deep rut in Death Vallley

    IAM turned the whole game down.



    BTW- ING is the same outfit that got hammered for shady money dealings, look it up in the news.

    I suggest that this be forwarded to any Engineer- Tech who may be retiring in the next 3 to 4 years.

    An excel spreadsheet can be downloaded as shown and persons can input as shown to get an estimate of their possible pension as described in the latest Boeing PR re contract.


    The particular set of numbers was chosen to show the effects of changes in Covered Compensation on the Alternate formula

    In effect, unless an employee consistently beats the increase in covered compensation, there will be many months in which NO increase in pension benefits.

    The Alternate formula has not changed since 1993 and possibly before

    A copy of the legal plan document effective in 1993 is part of the spreadsheet

    Compare to the current Boeing PR and also compare to the SPD that can be downloaded from Boeing

    Note that issues such as no decrease due to covered compensation OR drop off of EIP or signing bonus after 5 years is mentioned.

    • On medical premiums- I have mixed feelings about the issue- cuz in my opinion- SPEEA members should be willing to pay much more ( higher percentage ) of the premiums than they do now for the extra benefits compared to the no -low cost options. Its a fact of life nowdays, and under ObUma care the $$ get even worse.

      I say this even though DIRECTLY the refusal to pay more does not apply to me – BUT INDIRECTLY it will cost ME even more.

      Here is why . Boeing apparently “peanut butter spreads” the costs over all employees AND retirees, even those, who like myself have the Boeing aetna medicare supplement ( premiums taken out of my pension check )

      Currently for wife and I, we pay rounded $ 495/month for both of us.

      But in the latest speea spotlite- they claim the Boeing offer would require payment of
      $ 1513 PER YEAR for the family premium. So I am now paying 4 times as much- for somewhat less coverage ( no dental ) same prescription coverage, and same deductibles AFIK.

      And my pension is certainly NOT in the 80 to 100k/year range.

      Oh I also pay medicare premiums on top of that – 105/month/person or 210 for both = $ 2520 year which in itself is more than the BA ” offer” of $ 1513/year for family !!

      So that means I(we) pay $ 8460/year for somewhat less coverage than Boeing offers for $1513. Or 5.6 times as much !

      And I surely do NOT expect that cost to decrease in the next 3 to 5 years.

      The least the company could do i make an offer that covers the premium costs for the ‘ average” prof OR tech, plus say 1 to 2 percent.

      The pension issue is another story

  3. Conspicuous by its absence are ANY actual numbers. Vague, Vague, Vague. These discussions are always missing key numbers. What are the numbers for the current contract and what are the proposed changes (compared to the current contract)? A From/To diagram would put it out there simply: Current vs. Proposed.
    Obviously, negotiation strategy is more important than communicating so, school yard strong-arm politics are alive and well. Good Riddance!

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