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Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Boeing workers aim to cut union ties

Wichita employees want to force vote

October 23, 2003

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— Workers at The Boeing Co.'s plant in Wichita are trying to force a vote to decertify its second-largest union.

Workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace's technical and professional unit are collecting signatures to petition the National Labor Relations Board for a vote on the issue.

To force a vote, union opponents need signatures from 30 percent, or 1,100, of the 3,700 workers represented in the bargaining union's Wichita plant. So far, they have collected 750 signatures.

"We feel like Boeing would be better off without a union," said Shirley Moon, an organizer and programmer analyst at Boeing.

The union contract gave workers some improvements in insurance benefits and a signing bonus. But workers lost out on an employee incentive plan not offered to unionized workers as well as changes in disability benefits, Moon said.

SPEEA executive director Charles Bofferding said workers have gained financially from union representation.

In a close vote, employees voted for the union in June 2000. Only 65 votes separated the two sides at that time.

Under NLRB rules, a decertification petition can be filed only during the 60- to 90-day period before a current labor agreement expires. The union's three-year agreement expires Feb. 19. That gives the group until Dec. 21 to collect enough signatures.

"What's best for the company trickles down for what's best for us," said Jania Kistler, an organizer who works in workplace services. "I don't believe what's best for the union ever trickles down to be best for employees."

Bofferding disagreed. He said SPEEA members have gained from the processes that affect them.

For one, they now are told what their retention ratings are and can appeal them. Layoffs also are monitored, he said.

Bofferding said he does not think organizers would have enough signatures to call for a vote. But the certification effort could hurt negotiations for a new contract next year, he said.

If enough signatures are gathered, a decertification election would occur six to eight weeks later, according to NLRB.

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