By Tom McCarty, SPEEA President
Over 95% of us told Boeing management their contract offer is not acceptable. The salary pools are not acceptable. The retirement provisions are not acceptable. The medical plans are not acceptable, and lastly the language that describes many of the important provisions is not acceptable.
Since that rejection, your SPEEA negotiators and Boeing's negotiators have not had any long meaningful talks. By the time you read this, I hope that will have changed. I do not know exactly when that will happen, but I know how to make it happen – and so do you.
In terms of other world events, our contract negotiations are certainly not one of the most important things going on right now, but it is important to us and our families. Frankly, the younger you are, the more important it becomes because the precedent set in these negotiations will affect your salary and benefits for the rest of your career at Boeing as well as how and when you are able to retire.
The best course for us, at this point, is to stay right on the course we have chosen. You have already shown Boeing management, the press and analysts, but most importantly each other, that we are strategic, focused and resolute.
Your negotiation teams know very well the sense of frustration that can arise when progress seems slow or fleeting, but let me be as clear as I can be. You have seen the management proposal and have absolutely rejected it. However that very proposal, or a reasonable approximation thereof, is still the goal of the company's negotiators. I venture to speculate their strategy sessions center on how to improve that offer by the least amount necessary in order to garner just enough votes next time to get ratification. Remember, if half of us give in, then it takes only one vote to settle the issue.
I sometimes feel at a disadvantage because I can't sit across from each of the 23,000 members to have a good discussion about what we're doing and how we will maximize our ability to get the company to recognize our interests in the next offer. If I could meet with every member once for an hour, it would take almost eight years.
Fortunately, there are more people than just me to meet with you and discuss just how we will get where we need to be. They are your Council Rep, your Area Reps, our SPEEA staff and the members of the negotiation teams who attend a lot of meetings and rallies to listen to your concerns and answer your questions.
If we are going to complete a successful negotiation, we need to keep the faith. We need to have faith in each other and faith that persistence and the refusal to settle for less is ultimately the best path to our goal.
I have heard some members say we should go on strike as soon as we are legally able, which by my calculation, is probably no sooner than December 11. Since everybody I know at Boeing is very bright and thoughtful, then they soon realize it probably wouldn't make sense to be on strike during the holiday shutdown. But I want our members to know that any decision to strike will be theirs. Frankly, I think we are a long way from that since there are many ways to keep our interests in front of management's negotiators.
When we are at work every day earning our paycheck, we have the daily opportunity to remind management just how important we are to the success of Boeing. Every day, our customers count on us to deliver the products and services that have earned the respect of the entire aerospace community. Even the suspicion this might be interrupted can cause a great deal of anxiety.
Those of you old enough to remember the newspaper cartoon strip "Pogo" may remember his famous line: "We have found the enemy, and he is us." We are now in the eye of the storm. If we go back, we face the same maelstrom that lays ahead of us, so we may as well go forward.
What we must guard against is talking ourselves into accepting less. Accepting less because we are impatient. Accepting less because we are discouraged. Accepting less because we think we can't change the outcome. Accepting less because we don't plan to stay at Boeing. Accepting less because we're going to retire soon. Accepting less because management thinks we're greedy. Accepting less because average is OK. Accepting less because if we don't management will find someone else to do our job. We must not negotiate against ourselves. We know what is right. Who would respect us if we settled for less than we deserve?
It can be hard to keep the momentum in these negotiations, especially when management makes every effort and takes every opportunity to present their arguments about maintaining our competitiveness. Why should we settle for an economic offer that does not acknowledge the premier position we enabled Boeing to assume in the global market place? I agree with management when asked if I want Boeing to be competitive. I think the answer is very evident – we all want Boeing to remain competitive. As long as we can attract and retain the talented workforce which enabled that competitiveness, we will. Keep the faith.