Boeing Promotes Record Profits while Shifting Costs onto Employees

As defense industry titan Boeing enjoys record sales and income it has made shifting costs to its engineers and technical workers a focal point of contract negotiations with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEAA).

Smaller salary pools and higher shares of medical costs are among the concessions being hurled at Boeing’s union workforce during the contentious talks that SPEAA Representatives have said are something close to “trickery.” Union officials have gone as far as saying that Boeing has abandoned negotiations.

With five weeks left to agree on a contract, Boeing is using a new tactic of reminding awaiting union members of the company’s successes instead of being transparent:

Boeing negotiators are “going to conduct a public relations campaign directly to the membership and then drop a bad offer at the last minute to give you as little time as possible to study it,” wrote Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, in a message to union members. “Think about that. Boeing is afraid to let you see their contract offer until after they’ve spent a couple months selling the individual components to you.”

The brazenness of Boeing’s leadership is actually quite remarkable. In a Twitter exchange last week, Executive Director Ray Gofforth displayed outright disregard for the interests of employees and instead waxed Orwellian in calling worker concessions “market alignment.”

Andrew Transcript 1: @speea @andrewferguson @boeing: “Other companies are cutting pay & benefits. We should too.”

Andrew Transcript 2 @andrewferguson @boeing @speea “But you have record profits, 4000 plane backlog, exec salary up, dividend up.”

Andrew Transcript 3: @speea @andrewferguson @boeing “Since others are cutting, we can cut and our employee’s will keep working for us.”

Andrew Transcript 4: @andrewferguson @boeing @speea “We turned you from bankruptcy to record profits & you want cuts just because you can?”

Andrew Transcript 5: @speea @andrewferguson @boeing “Don’t think of it as pay/benefit cuts. Think of it as market alignment.”

Andrew Transcript END: @andrewferguson @boeing @speea “Your position = irrational & disrespectful. Record profits should reward employees”

Union by-laws mandate the offer to be in two weeks before the October 6th deadline. Management has not given the SPEEA a full contract offer since June. Boeing has since started a website giving its side of the story concerning negotiations. According to the Everett Herald,

SPEEA’s Goforth urged union members to call on Boeing to back up with data anything the company posts on its website or in emails to employees.

“Your negotiating team already caught the Boeing negotiating team polluting the comparative market datasets with bankrupt companies and others, like Walmart, that provide little if any benefits to their employees. Trickery and marketing has replaced rational discourse,” Goforth wrote.

Although the concessions are not as drastic, Boeing’s negotiating tactics seem to be in lock step with Caterpillar’s who, in the wake of record rake-ins, forced large concessions on its own unionized workforce.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Connor has admitted that the company is succeeding:

Net income rose 3% during the second quarter to $1 billion.
Commercial airplane revenue was up 34% to $11.8 billion.
Boeing won the 2011 Collier Trophy, the most prestigious award in aeronautics, for designing, building, certifying, delivering and supporting the Boeing 787.

So why is the company trying harder than ever to transfer costs onto employees? In the age of austerity with large swaths of the population turning a blind eye to corporate malfeasance, we are entangled in a never ending contest to see what monolith companies can get away with. There are no winners in this contest. Not any who are workers, at least.

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