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Boeing, the same company South Carolina Republicans say is the gold standard, has proposed massive cuts in retiree health care for engineers and technical workers. Now, what would Boeing workers in S.C. do if this affected them? They have no union.

This is a press release in full on what the SPEEA is dealing with:

SEATTLE – At a time when retirement security is increasingly at risk, a fundamental issue included in The Boeing Company’s contract offers to engineers and technical workers is that the aerospace giant gains authority to cancel retiree medical insurance for employees who are retired prior to the contract being implemented. The benefit could end even if they are already enrolled in the early retiree medical plan.

The action is tucked inside section 16.3 of the contract language offered to 23,000 engineers and technical workers in the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE, Local 2001. For the first time, the change would give Boeing the ability to abruptly end the vital medical insurance benefit used by employees who retire between the ages of 55 and 65 years.

During negotiations earlier this year over the closure of Boeing’s Wichita facility, the company discussed cancelling medical insurance for retirees. SPEEA Benefits Director Matt Kempf explained that union contracts prohibited the action for retirees. Now, in negotiations for Puget Sound engineers and technical workers, Boeing is proposing to insert language that eliminates protections that retirees have had for decades.

“With no mention of the change during the past six months of negotiations, Boeing slipped these language changes into its proposal without ever explaining why they wanted them,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “These proposed changes serve no purpose except to grant Boeing the authority to cancel retiree medical coverage. Boeing has explicitly refused to guarantee that they won’t use this authority if they get it.”

SPEEA negotiation teams and the governing councils are recommending members reject Boeing’s offers because of this and numerous other issues. Ballots were mailed to union members last week and are due by 5 p.m., Oct. 1 for counting. The two contracts expire Oct. 6.

In a carefully worded response to SPEEA inquiries about retiree medical coverage, Boeing said: “Our proposal contains nothing that suggests Boeing plans to eliminate retiree medical benefits for current retirees. Clarifications offered in Article 16 simply state that the terms of the proposed contract apply to employees who retire during the term of the new agreement.”

“True, Boeing never said it was going to cancel retiree medical benefits for current retirees,” said Goforth. “Boeing just wants to ‘clarify’ that the company has the power to cancel medical insurance for retirees if it chooses. All concerns could be alleviated if Boeing would simply guarantee in writing that they won’t cancel retiree medical. The fact that they refuse to do so speaks volumes about their intent.”

The union vote is a straight “Reject” or “Accept” of the Boeing contract offers. Union officials said a strong rejection should make it clear to Boeing that it must stop attacking engineers and technical workers and return to negotiations ready to negotiate.

While the majority of covered employees are in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, these SPEEA Professional and Technical contracts also cover employees in Oregon, Utah and California.

A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents 26,560 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, and Triumph Composite Systems, Inc. in Spokane, Wash.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    I am a proud steelworker, family man and loving husband working hard for change in this great Country so that when I move on, I will know my children are all right.

    by Jamie Sanderson on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:23:50 PM PDT

  •  Goddamned greedy bastards..they will w/o (7+ / 0-)

    question cancel retiree's health care plans asap if the union allows this amendment to their contract. My former in law's went through this about 10 years ago w/ Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore, MD. My former father-in-law had been living w/a degenitarive disease similar to MS that was terminal for about 14 years at that point. (It's progression was a slow, painful, excrutiating one and he passed away in July)

    Both he and my former mother-in-law were in their sixties and my mother-in-laws mother, (whose husband had been the fire chief at Bethlehem Steel for decades) were forced to scramble and apply for Medicare when a court ruled  that Betlehem Steel as a part of their "restructuring" aka Mitt's idea of privatized corporate bakruptcy could violate those contracts and cancel retiree's guaranteed health insurance. This was a precedent setting ruling by this Dubya era court. Thank God Medicare and ultimately Medicaid were there for my in law's and for Grandmom. Grandmom was forced to go on Medicaid after a series of strokes and the onset of severe dementia left my mother-in-law incapable of caring for her at home and she spent the last 3 years or so of her life in a good nursing home. My father in-law- also had to go from Medicare to Medicaid the last few years of his life as he was in and out of intensive care and rehabilitative stints in nursing homes.

    If Boeing has the option to welsh on defined retiree benefits, you can bet your sweet ass they will.

    Solidarity...

    "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by mindara on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:47:47 PM PDT

    •  Excellent comment... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, mindara, phonegery

      and thanks for sharing your story.

      I am a proud steelworker, family man and loving husband working hard for change in this great Country so that when I move on, I will know my children are all right.

      by Jamie Sanderson on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:03:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks Jamie, and many thanks to you for (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jamie Sanderson

        sharing this Boeing vs. the Union members story. This kind of crap will resonate with a lot of middle class Americans, particularly those blue collar ones in the south and midwest, not to mention that the NFL's disastorous decison to lock out the ref's and bring in scabs becomes a massively bigger story every week and people who don't follow politics or just listen to Faux News are being exposed to the issue of union busting in a setting that the right wing punditry has no control over and can't spin. The NFL has inadvertently done a huge favor for middle class Americans and Unions. HA!

        "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

        by mindara on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:28:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it's similar to the fight USW had... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          antirove

          with ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel. Thanks for your comments.

          I am a proud steelworker, family man and loving husband working hard for change in this great Country so that when I move on, I will know my children are all right.

          by Jamie Sanderson on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:54:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Screw the workers to pay CEO more. Excssellent. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jamie Sanderson, notrouble, bluezen

    Monty Burns would be proud.

  •  CURRENT retirees (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove

    not just future ones?

    Gotta love how a contract is sacred unless its with workers.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:58:59 PM PDT

  •  workers in SC won't get a voice? (0+ / 0-)

    Does this mean that Boeing can just automatically do this to those working in SC?

    •  Why yes... (0+ / 0-)

      Boeing can do that to workers in S.C. if they choose, but those workers can call Tim Scott if need be or "pray it away" as they say.

      I am a proud steelworker, family man and loving husband working hard for change in this great Country so that when I move on, I will know my children are all right.

      by Jamie Sanderson on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 11:19:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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