White-Collar Workers Defy Boeing

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As this is written, nearly 20,000 Boeing aircraft engineers and technical workers have been on strike for over three weeks. Some news reports are calling the Seattle area walkout the largest white-collar strike in memory.

The Christian Science Monitor (Feb. 24) says that “because SPEEA [Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace] is a voluntary union, only 64 percent of Boeing engineers and technicians choose to pay dues.” Nonetheless, “5000 of those who walked out were not dues-paying members.”

According to a SPEEA press release (Feb. 23), “SPEEA members rejected two contract offers before striking. Each offer contained benefit takeaways and pools of money that keep technical workers below market level wages. The offers also lacked a bonus. The International Association of Machinists (IAM) took a 10 percent bonus from Boeing during their own contract negotiations last year. SPEEA members also received bonuses during the past five contracts.”

The Monitor reported that the strikers, who affiliated with the AFL-CIO last year, were getting support from other unions: “The Teamsters who drive UPS trucks refused to cross picket lines to deliver Boeing’s parts. The unionized engineers of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad simply left some jetliner fuselages sitting on a siding somewhere south of Seattle.”

The paper reported that IAM members, who have a no-strike contract, nevertheless are working to rule doing “a minimum that slowed production already hindered by the walkout.” Some observers, such as The Wall Street Journal, said that the strikers would crumble in a few days.

That did happen in 1993. Now, some strikers seem angry enough to stay out a long time.

“After 37 years being here, I never thought this would happen,” said one striker. “But all the seniors engineers of the company are out here. I joined SPEEA one month before the strike. I finally got mad enough.”

-CHARLES WALKER

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