A tentative agreement was reached today to end a
38-day strike by thousands of Boeing Co. engineers and technical
workers, one of the largest white-collar walkouts in U.S. history.
Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in
Aerospace will vote on the three-year pact Sunday, and union
leaders recommended approval.
The union said the deal includes guaranteed wage increases of at
least 9 percent over the life of the contract as well as cash
bonuses of up to $2,500, a key issue in a strike that had grown
increasingly rancorous since it began Feb. 9.
A company demand for first-time employee copayments toward
health insurance premiums was dropped, the union said, and health
coverage would be extended to unmarried domestic partners of the
"We wanted respect for our contributions and a better future
for our families and our company," SPEEA executive director
Charles Bofferding said in a statement. "We believe the tentative
agreement ... delivers on those demands and can make a strong
Chairman Philip M. Condit, an engineer and former SPEEA member,
said in a statement today he hopes "we can look back on this time
as a turning point, a time when we more clearly recognized the
importance of listening to and seeking to understand each other ...
Both sides worked very hard and compromised."
Lawrence W. McCracken, a Boeing spokesman, would not say which
if any of the major changes sought by the company were included in
the settlement. The statement said company officials would not
discuss details of the agreement until after the ratification vote.
In early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Boeing shares
climbed 7.2 percent, or $2.56 1/4 a share, to $38.18 3/4.
C. Richard Barnes, director of the Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Service, said he was optimistic about ratification of
the deal reached early today after meetings in Washington, D.C.
"The parties, both parties, worked extremely hard," Barnes
said in a telephone interview from Washington. "There seemed to be
a genuine level of satisfaction among both parties."
The union represents about 22,350 Boeing employees, mostly in
Washington state, but also in Kansas, California, Florida, Oregon,
Texas and Utah. About 14,000 are dues-paying members.
SPEEA leaders have said more than 17,000 employees went on
strike, mostly in the Seattle area. Boeing estimates put the number
Boeing has said the number of commercial airplane deliveries has
been off by 50 percent or more, while military contracts also have
been hurt. However, production at the world's largest airplane
maker has continued since assembly employees are required by
contract to work regardless of what other employees do.
The union said picketing would continue until the pact is
On the picket lines in front of Boeing's military division this
morning, strikers had mixed feelings about the agreement.
"I think it'll get approved, but it's a compromise," said Dave
Keil, who works on the company's Joint Strike Fighter project for
"They didn't touch our benefits, and that was key for us,"
added picket captain Matt Renaud. "Looking at it that way, it's a
win for the union."
This was the first large strike in SPEEA's 56-year history, and
some members had questioned whether the white-collar workers were
willing to take on the company. The union's only previous strike
was a one-day walkout in 1992.
Barnes said the SPEEA settlement was reached because of "some
new thinking" but would not disclose the source or nature of the
Key provisions of the settlement, as described on the union's
Web site, include:
Guaranteed pay increases of 3 percent a year in the
professional unit and 4 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent for the
technical unit. In addition, additional money would be set aside
for discretionary pay hikes and promotional increases.
Past SPEEA contracts and previous offers have been based mainly
on discretionary pay hikes.
Cash bonuses of $1,000 after 30 days, $500 following delivery
of 225 planes this year and $1,000 after the delivery of 491 planes
if that total is reached by March 1, 2001. If the targets are
missed through no fault of SPEAA-covered workers, the bonuses would
be paid anyway. Neither of the previous two offers included
Extension of health coverage to unmarried domestic partners, a
provision Boeing offered to non-union workers earlier.
In addition, Boeing withdrew demands for monthly health
insurance copayments, an increase in deductibles and reduced life
The strike drew attention for its solidarity. Last week, the
nation's most powerful union, the AFL-CIO, said it would give the
striking workers financial aid.
Both the engineers and technical workers they are separate
units within SPEEA rejected two earlier offers, one by more than
98 percent on Nov. 11 and the other by closer margins Feb. 2.
The latest round of talks began Thursday morning in Washington
and included for the first time AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard
Trumka and James Dagnon, Boeing's senior vice president for
Their presence at the table "was a tremendously important
factor," Barnes said.
"We are very pleased that the longest and largest white-collar
labor dispute in the aerospace industry has been settled," Barnes
said in a statement. "I want to commend the leadership of the
company and union for their hard work and their commitment to
reaching this agreement.
The union had sought more guaranteed pay raises and cash bonuses
like those received by production workers represented by the
Machinists, Boeing's largest union. Boeing had insisted on mostly
selective pay increases, reductions in life insurance benefits and
some changes in health insurance.
Negotiations broke down Feb. 27 despite the efforts of Barnes,
and earlier this month, Boeing declared an impasse, which the union
Boeing's value has reportedly fallen by about $5.3 billion since
the walkout began and that strikers have lost more than $125
million in wages, based on a company estimate of $3.4 million a