In the wake of Washington passing marriage equality comes this news that in the eyes of Boeing Company, of aircraft and aerospace fame, some marriages in the Evergreen State may be more equal than other marriages. Dominic Holden at the Seattle SLOG is reporting that a source involved in union negotiations with Boeing reported the company had taken a hardline position that surviving spouses of same-sex couples would not be able to access to survivor pension benefits of an employee.
Representing 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, Ray Goforth is executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. He was sitting at the negotiation table today—as part of ongoing talks over retirement benefits—and says the company's position "says to employees that they can be discriminated against based on who they are."
Not a sticking point for opposite-sex couples. If you've chosen the "correct" type of spouse, Boeing is happy to see that your surviving spouse and any children are well-cared for after your untimely passing.

Boeing is headquartered in Illinois but has a substantial workforce in Washington, nearly 83,000 according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Boeing representatives told him that pensions are governed by federal law, which doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, thereby trumping the state law on the matter.
This position is, of course, total and absolute, unmitigated bullshit. I won't offer an opinion that if true, the Boeing company is shockingly ignorant or just lying.

The Defense of Marriage Act is silent on corporate policies affecting specifically and only the federal government's recognition of of marriage. There are noI can't imagine what other applicable laws there might be. A company can create any pension conveyance policy they wish, this is not an area where "big government" is telling job creators what they should be doing. Hundreds or more companies across the country already have such policies. They certainly aren't being subpoenaed by AG Holder to explain themselves.

[Update: The question of ERISA has been raised. Over my pay grade. It is also noted Boeing has a good history on LGBT rights, including a diversity recognition from Human Rights Campaign in 2009 (make of that what you will).]

Now, before someone says "boycott," that's silly and doomed. It is possible that spreading the word might motivate LGBT talent to find themselves a first class employer. Competition for top talent is the main reason most of the Fortune 500 cite as to why they have non-discrimination policies. And I imagine in the aerospace industry there's a stiff competition for top talent.

Boeing is already doing a little (not terribly convincing) damage control (SLOG's emphasis):

Doug Alder, a spokesman for the aerospace giant, says that "any assertion that Boeing discriminates is blatantly false and, quite frankly, offensive." Late this afternoon, Boeing issued a statement to its employees saying it will assess the impacts of Referendum 74 on company policy. "Boeing is taking a closer look at how R-74 might impact company policies once it takes effect in December," the statement said.

Asked directly, however, if Boeing did in fact refuse these benefits at the negotiating table today, Alder evaded the question. "Nothing is ever final in negotiations until they're over," Alder told me. "What we said today is that [these pension benefits] are not currently addressed in the contract."

But speaking for the union, Goforth says Boeing was unequivocal today. "They were clear in negotiations—they were quite firm—that they weren't required to honor Washington State state law on this matter. They said they weren't going to."


Why are we even having this conversation?

I'd point the Boeing company to the Human Rights law in Washington state. I hope before they're done with their effort to "assess the impacts of Referendum 74 on company policy" and make their final offer on the negotiating table, Boeing realizes that the two-tiered compensation system they are said to be considering is almost certainly illegal under Washington state law which covers sexual orientation and gender identity (emphasis mine):

An EMPLOYER may not: (1) refuse to hire a person, (2) discharge or bar a person from a job, (3) discriminate in compensation or other terms or conditions of employment, (4) print, circulate, or use any discriminatory statement, advertisement, publication, job application form, or make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment that is discriminatory.
So ... that's a handy piece of information to have next time negotiators come to the table, in my opinion. "We'd love to sign this contract, but it's illegal, you know?"

That this attitude exists is why President Obama needs to issue an executive order requiring LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies to qualify for federal taxpayer-funded contracts.

Boeing would then be faced with the prospect of moving forward with a discriminatory policy and giving up their lucrative billions of dollars in tax-payer contracts.

Wanna guess which they'd pick: money or discrimination?

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:51 PM PST.

Also republished by Angry Gays, Kossacks for Marriage Equality, and LGBT Kos Community.

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