Seattle — After laying off tens of thousands of workers, announcing more cuts are on the way and narrowly averting a strike by its largest union, The Boeing Co. now faces another hurdle: Contract talks with its second-largest union.
Boeing opened formal talks Tuesday with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. It is squaring off with a white-collar work force so incensed by the company's offer in 2000 that the union struck for 40 days and got the health care changes reversed. Not only did the union gain more than 2,000 members during that period, it also persuaded 5,000 nonmembers to walk out for at least part of the strike.
SPEEA is negotiating three new contracts that cover 18,900 engineering and technical workers in the Puget Sound, Wash., area and Wichita. Those employees work primarily in the Boeing Commercial Airplanes unit of Chicago-based Boeing.
The two contracts for the Puget Sound workers expire at midnight Dec. 1.
The Wichita contract expires at midnight Dec. 5. SPEEA represents 3,600 others in seven states whose contracts are not up for negotiation.
The talks start just less than two months after the Machinists union at Boeing decided not to strike over its contract, which it called an attack on job security. Machinists also protested increases in their share of health care costs.
The machinists actually rejected the contract offer, but since they didn't approve a strike vote, the contract took effect anyway.