Questions & Answers

Employees ask SPEEA-IFPTE Local 2001

Following are some of the actual questions employees ask about SPEEA and joining a labor union at work.

What is a labor union?

A labor union is an organization of employees that provides a collective and strong voice when dealing with a company. Workers who are part of a labor union bargaining unit at work have help and assistance that is on their side when problems, issues or improvements are sought for pay, benefits and working conditions. Without a labor union, employees must rely on their own skills and personal resources to deal with workplace issues.

As a union, members negotiate a “contract” with their employer. The contract clearly spells out pay, benefits, working conditions and many other important issues and concerns. This legally-binding document guarantees that items agreed to during contract negotiations cannot be arbitrarily changed.


Do we have a right to form a union?

Yes! The National Labor Relations Act (a federal law) protects employees who are working to organize a labor union where they work. Whether a public agency or private company, employees have the freedom to form a union and work together to improve the quality of their jobs. It's illegal for your employer to intimidate, discriminate, or otherwise interfere in your efforts to form a union or in your decision to join a union.


Who decides if employees have a union?

Employees decide if they are represented by a labor union. Employees work together to gain support to form and join a union. When enough support is shown, employees form a union.


How do we form a union where I work?

Anyone wanting to improve their working conditions with the goal of negotiating with their employer should read the information on this web site and then talk with a union organizer who can explain the steps to form a union. Forming a union is a process. While help is available, employees drive the process by determining issues, educating co-workers, planning for votes and ultimately negotiating the contract. For more information email a SPEEA Organizer.


Do union members have more rights than employees without a union?

Yes, federal laws give union-represented employees additional protections that employees without a union do not have. Among the additional protections is:

  • Weingarten Rights -The Supreme Court ruled in the Weingarten decision that an employee covered by a union is allowed, and cannot be denied if they request, a union representative present during an interview that may result in discipline.

What is SPEEA-IFPTE, Local 2001?

SPEEA, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, is the largest white collar union representing professional aerospace employees in the United States. Formed by engineers at The Boeing Company shortly after World War II, the union today represents nearly 25,000 aerospace workers. In 1999, SPEEA members voted to affiliate with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) and became part of the AFL-CIO. As an affiliate of IFPTE, SPEEA is designated as Local 2001.


Who makes decisions in the union?

SPEEA is made up of and run by its members through a strong democratic process. SPEEA members vote on all important decisions that govern the union, including electing union leaders and our representatives to the international union (IFPTE). Within bargaining units and locally, members elect their workplace representatives and approve their contract.

Union staff assist members in negotiating contracts, filing grievances, training, benefit questions and addressing workplace issues.


Where do SPEEA members work?

SPEEA members work at the following aerospace companies:

  • The Boeing Company in Washington, Oregon, California, Kansas and Utah (not all employees in these states are members)

  • Triumph Composite Systems, Inc, Spokane, Washington

  • Spirit AeroSystems, Inc, Wichita, Kansas

  • BAE Systems, Irving, Texas

What jobs do SPEEA members haveand where do they work?

SPEEA members perform a variety of professional and technical jobs where they work, among the most common are:

  • Engineer
    • Aerospace, electrical, facilities, flight, materials, mechanical, product, software, stress, structural, technical data
  • Technical
    • Designer, laboratory, information technology, planner, test evaluation
  • Professional
    • Administrator, technical writer, health & safety

What have SPEEA members gained?

Members of SPEEA have some of the highest job standards in America for professional aerospace workers, including locking in guaranteed wage increases, bonuses, affordable health benefits, retirement security, overtime pay, and a retention process for layoffs which ensure contractors go before SPEEA members.

Each contract between our members and their employers is unique and the result of the priorities of the individual bargaining units.  In our largest bargaining unit, we represent over 20,000 Boeing employees and have negotiated a unique joint SPEEA/Boeing initiative:

  • Ed Wells Partnership - A joint initiative where Boeing and SPEEA-represented employees agree working together for their mutual benefit helps maintain competitiveness and technical excellence and creates a model for union/management collaboration to make Boeing a workplace of choice. This is a benefit for our Boeing members that offers training opportunities to enhance technical skills, develop careers and provides money to attend conferences.  This is a benefit negotiated into our Boeing contract that states Boeing will contribute a minimum of $24.8 million towards Ed Wells.  

One of the benefits of union representation is to know you’re not alone in case of a discipline or security issue.  All SPEEA members have additional rights and have trained members and staff to assist them if they need to call in a representative.


What will forming a union guarantee?

Forming a union can only guarantee one thing: When workers stick together and work together they have more bargaining power than any one employee has alone.


After we vote to form a union, what happens?

Once employees vote to join a union, the work begins to negotiate a contract with the employer. SPEEA and IFPTE can assist employees with bargaining unit surveys to determine what workers want and need in a first contract.

You, and your co-workers, elect a negotiation team from employees in your bargaining unit. Your employer must negotiate with you as unionized workers about wages, benefits and working conditions.

Once a tentative agreement with management is reached, employees have a chance to review the document and ask questions about its content. Then a vote is held — no contract can be accepted unless a majority of employees vote to approve. While all SPEEA contracts are different, basic similarities exist. Review SPEEA's existing contracts

The contract you negotiate is a legally binding document that must be followed and cannot be changed outside of negotiations.


What can we expect from management while we form the union?

Most employers want to make decisions without employee input. Naturally then, it is typical for employers to be reluctant or even resist efforts by employees to join or form a union. In addition, employers without unions often have little or no experience working with unions. As a result, employers may have inaccurate information about the union or what will happen once the union is in place. Management may also turn to outside consultants to help persuade employees to vote against the union.

Ultimately, the decision to form or join a union is made by employees. The right to form, join or vote in a union election is protected by federal law.


How much are union dues?

It takes money to run an organization, like a church, a club, or a union.  Dues are each member's investment to ensure that our organization has the strength and resources to be effective.  Union dues pay for contract negotiation expenses, office and support services, legal services, union newsletters and other communications, training for stewards (Council Representatives) and members, representation of members on the job, and helping new members organize into SPEEA. 

SPEEA monthly dues for 2013: $39.75

SPEEA members have voted on how we calculate dues.  The SPEEA constitution (Section 3.3) provides for the recalculation of the dues annually. The monthly dues are set at eighty-five hundredths (0.85) of the average hourly wage. Dues are adjusted with the first paycheck in February each year. 

Unlike some unions, SPEEA and the IFPTE do not have initiation fees. In addition, newly-organized members pay no union dues until they negotiate and approve by member vote the bargaining unit's first contract.


Won't I have to strike if I belong to a labor union?

No! Strikes are the exception, not the rule. Strikes are a tool of "last resort" when contract negotiations do not go well. Strikes only occur after a contract has expired and the company refuses to listen and respect employees. In addition, employees decide by vote whether or not to approve and go out on strike.

The decision to strike is very serious and occurs only when workers believe that they must take dramatic action to protect their rights, wages and benefits.


Can we lose our benefits if we form a union?

Joining with your co-workers and forming a union is the best way to protect the benefits you now have and achieve the improvements needed to care for your family.

When you sit down to negotiate a union contract, you start with your existing pay and benefits and strategically work to achieve improvements where needed. Because these improvements are written into a legally binding contract, you are assured they will remain the same through the life of the contract.


Will forming a union prevent me from speaking to my supervisor?

No. In fact, forming a union often improves workplace communication - including communications between workers and their supervisors. When employees have an agreed upon contract with management, everyone knows what to expect and there are clear ways to resolve day-to-day problems. By joining together as a union, workplace dialogue increases as union members share in decision-making with management. Often, this results in a new environment of mutual respect.


Why can’t my department or classification just organize?

Working with guidelines from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), SPEEA and IFPTE help employees define jobs and types of work to form a bargaining unit of similar work and employees. The NLRB then looks at the grouping and rules whether or not it is an appropriate grouping for a labor union bargaining unit.

SPEEA has a successful record representing different work within a company. Generally we negotiate similar benefits while specific issues related to different bargaining units are negotiated separately. An example are the two Puget Sound bargaining units at The Boeing Company. One unit is for engineers and the other is for technical workers. The two contracts are negotiated at the same time and have many similar components. Yet, each specific sections that apply only to the members of that bargaining unit.


Once we are SPEEA, will everyone have to join the union?

All non-management, non-confidential employees have the choice to become union members once your bargaining unit is recognized. In work sites where everyone is a union member, workers find that they can act most effectively as a union because management knows that all employees are united. 

In all states, unions are legally obligated to represent everyone within the bargaining unit, whether or not they are union members. Every worker in the bargaining unit is covered by the contract, may file grievances, are represented by the union, and are represented by a union attorney in arbitration hearings. While some states have restrictive rules for union membership, the union is required to represent and provide services to everyone in the bargaining unit.


Want to learn more? Contact SPEEA today!

Contact SPEEA Headquarters at 1-800-325-0811 and ask for April Rebollo, Director of Organizing, or email an inquiry at aprilr@speea.org. We recommend contacting us from your personal email or personal phone. Your email or conversation is confidential and we will walk you through the steps towards negotiating a contract with your employer.