Mon, Nov 15, 2004
New Contract Talks Could Change Thousands Of Lives
The coming year will be a big one
for Boeing, its thousands of workers in the Seattle area and for
the Puget Sound economy as a whole. Seattle Post-Intelligencer
columnist Bill Virgin writes, if you want to know what next year's
negotiations will look like, look back to 2000.
Both the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in
Aerospace will bargain with Boeing for new contracts before the end
In 2002, SPEEA accepted a contract
with 88-percent approval. IAM members, however, didn't like the
company's offer and turned it down. But, because there was no
strike authorization, the contract took effect anyway.
In 2002, Boeing had laid off some 26,000 workers. Orders were
way down. Airlines were in financial hot water or were going
bankrupt. Now, the aerospace giant is hiring again. Projected
deliveries are up for both next year and the year after. It's the
kind of economic atmosphere both sides will probably feel more
comfortable about as talks get underway.
One big difference, according to Virgin: There's a new honcho at
Boeing. Harry Stonecipher has taken over for Phil Condit.
Stonecipher has a reputation as being not-too-union-friendly. But,
in light of the hardships both the company and the unions have
faced, there's no clear indication whether Stonecipher will be seen
as hard-nosed or will loosen up a little and share the (relative)
Virgin predicts the top issues in next year's negotiations will
be health benefits and job security -- no surprises there. But the
entire Pacific Northwest will be keeping an eye on these talks
because the economy of the entire region is at stake.
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