Home Contact News Organizing General info Negotiations Northwest Midwest Archive
Special Pubs
Political Action

February 23, 2001 Newsletter #1824


In Memorium - Chuck Bitler

Illness strikes Marks family member

Notes from Executive Director:
Turning the corner

Laid-off member faces denial of unemployment benefits

Court: L&I miscalculating workers comp payments

Sign the Auburn burn barrel

Portland joins celebration

Our Jobs - Our Future, part 4: Adapting to Shareholder Value

Open enrollment (May 1-25): Medical/Dental/LTD/DPB

Retiree data-gathering

New SPEEA Discounters

CWU offers MS in Engrg Tech

Upcoming Meetings

In Memoriam - Chuck Bitler

We regret to report that a very good friend and colleague passed away on February 7th -Mr. Charles B. Bitler.

Chuck (as everyone knew him) began his career at Boeing in the late 1950's. He credited himself with being the very first SPEEA Technical Unit member - he was lined up at the door to sign up the morning after SPEEA officially kicked off its organizing campaign and began collecting membership cards in June 1971. Over the years, he participated in SPEEA by serving as an Area Rep, Council Rep, Council Secretary, and Tellers Committee member. He also served as a "photographer" for SPEEA events on many occasions. In the last few years, he was an active member of the SPEEA Reorganization Committee, helping lead us through our most recent restructure. His compassion and strength affected all who knew him.

Chuck and his wife were also active in helping to establish the Fine Arts Center of Everett (F.A.C.E.) and the SGI Seattle Cultural Center in South Seattle. He was an artist and a "mediator", always working behind the scenes to make things happen.

Chuck was a great inspiration, a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and we are sure he left this world "free of regrets".

We'll miss him!

Back to Contents

Illness strikes Marks family member

SPEEA member Joe Marks and his family have been on the minds of many the past few days. On February 6th, Joe's wife Cheryl 35, was shopping with her daughter Justina when she experienced numbness in her left arm and facial area. Cheryl immediately underwent testing. Six brain tumors were discovered, some larger than others, as well as a tumor in her lung. On February 14, she had biopsy surgery. She is strong and alert but is having some difficulty with left arm movement. They are awaiting final Biopsy results to help them decide which cancer therapy will work best.

Along with teenage daughter Justina, they have a son Christian almost 4 and a daughter Makayla who is just 9 months old. With this growing family, they were happy to become first-time homeowners this past year.

Joe is continuing to stay with his wife Cheryl during her hospital stay. He also plans to stay with her during therapy. He will soon be exhausting all of his sick leave and vacation time.

A Savings account at Columbia Bank has been established for anyone to donate funds to assist the family. Since "Marks" is a fairly common last name, we ask that when you donate please let them know the following information to make sure it is correctly deposited:

Columbia Bank Saving Account

in the name of Joseph E. Marks

Opened 2/15/01

Any branch will be able to accept deposits into this specific account. [If you'd like to mail your donation, please note the above information, and send your check to: Columbia Bank, 17208 Meridian East, Puyallup, WA 98373.]

Joe has been with The Boeing Company for 14 years, and currently works at the Duwamish Customer Service Center as a Technical Illustration Lead. Friends and Family would like to express their deepest appreciation for any donations and prayers for the family during this difficult time.

If you are in need of additional information, please refer questions to Joe's Supervisor, Mr. Norval Fliegel (206) 544-0778.

Back to Contents 

Notes from the Executive Director
Turning the corner

I'm in Wichita right now working with the Negotiation Team to develop a first contract for the newly-organized unit. We are still very early in the process and anything is possible; however, I am hopeful that these negotiations will be a positive experience for everyone. I think the Company has a very good team, and I know we have a great team. Everyone seems committed to doing this right. Membership has surged in the Wichita unit. As I write this we are fast closing in on 50% and we hope to be on the right side of 50% real soon. Employees understand that this works best when we all work together and that includes being both involved and supportive of our union. The best partner is a strong partner. Before we can partner with Boeing, we must partner with ourselves and it's happening.

At our first session, Jeff Turner, the VP/GM of Wichita, spoke. He talked about the need for flexibility, competitiveness and productivity.

We support those goals. We talked about the same things and underscored that the best way to get there is with highly-skilled and motivated employees. Jeff supported those goals. We also pointed out that productivity is NOT about simply controlling unit cost of employees - it is about controlling TOTAL cost of production. Therefore, paying a little more to employees to get even more in productivity is a good investment.

Wichita is now the most highly-unionized Boeing plant; and a goal shared by Wichita management and employees is to also make Wichita the most productive Boeing plant.

It is too early to say with certainty, but my hope is that these negotiations will be part of the process of turning the corner in our relationship with Boeing. Over the past year, things got a bit contentious. We had the strike; we had a bitter organizing drive. We need to turn back to a partnership. The feeling in the room at our first meeting was one of partnership. We talked openly about our common interests and the need to move in the right direction in positive ways that met everyone's needs.

Again, I can't be sure, but it sure feels like we're turning the corner.

It's a good feeling.

Back to Contents

Case History
Laid off member faces denial of unemployment benefits

About a year ago, one of our members was laid off after declining a "less-than-equivalent" offer. Soon after, she began to receive her unemployment benefits and enrolled in a re-training program. Late last summer, she was notified that her unemployment benefits were being challenged on the basis that she "quit the Company". She contacted SPEEA and a Contract Administrator began an investigation.

Unfortunately, this is one case in which the Company was less than helpful. Ultimately, the Contract Administrator prepared to take the former employee's case before an Administrative Law Judge to explain that she had been laid off and did not quit. Two days before the hearing, the Contract Administrator was contacted by the State Employment Security Office and notified that they had reversed their decision. The Hearing was canceled and she continued to receive her unemployment benefits.

The former employee (and former union activist) was grateful that SPEEA advocated on her behalf. She also believes that she might not have prevailed without our assistance. Though we would like to believe that the "right thing" would have happened, it's hard to say. Regardless, there's no doubt that this long-time member is sure that SPEEA MAKES A DIFFERENCE! [MM] Back to Contents

Court: L & I miscalculating workers' comp payments

(From: Daily Union News, Washington State Labor Council,

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a decision Jan. 18, 2001 that has received little notice in the commercial press, but has dramatic implications for what injured workers in this state will receive in workers' compensation benefits.

In the case, Dianne L. Cockle v. Department of Labor & Industries, a worker injured in 1993 sued L&I arguing that the value of her employer-provided health care should be included in determining her workers' compensation payments. The department has traditionally calculated those benefits based solely on wages at the time of the injury.

Affirming a lower court's decision, the State Supreme Court concluded that health care benefits "represented a readily identifiable and reasonably calculable in-kind component of her lost earning capacity at the time of injury that is critical to protecting workers' basic health and survival." (The entire opinion is posted online.) The court ordered L&I to recalculate Cockle's compensation to include the value of the health benefit, pay her the difference, and also pay her attorney's fees.

Which begs the question: Does this mean anyone who has ever received workers' compensation benefits will get a big check in the mail? No. Because Cockle's suit was not class-action, its immediate and direct effect is only upon her.

However, the decision does put L&I on notice that it is not correctly calculating workers' compensation benefits and that the department faces additional legitimate legal claims by any workers' compensation recipients who lost employer-paid health care benefits as a result of their injury and whose claims are still open. Any injured worker whose claim has been closed for more than 60 days, making the closure order "final and binding," could not sue for additional benefits.

And of course, if L&I doesn't start factoring health benefits into its compensation equation, it will invite similar suits by future recipients.

At the heart of last week's ruling was the definition of "wages" as it applies to Washington's Industrial Insurance Act. L&I basically argued: Look it up in the dictionary -- wages are wages, and wages only. But the Supreme Court ruled that the statute's definition of "wages" is ambiguous because it mentions factoring in other benefits like board and housing, and therefore "the benefit of the doubt belongs to the injured worker:"

"(T)he guiding principle in construing provisions of the Industrial Insurance Act is that the Act is remedial in nature and is to be liberally construed in order to achieve its purpose of providing compensation to all covered employees injured in their employment, with doubts resolved in favor of the worker."

Another highlight of the opinion:

"The Department complains that including employer-provided health care coverage in 'wages' will make Washington's workers' compensation system costly, burdensome, and time-consuming rather than 'prompt, sure (and) certain'.... While take-home pay is undoubtedly easier to evaluate than benefits... the Department is not entitled to disregard statutory provisions merely because it finds them administratively inconvenient."

And the summary:

"We hold that, just as 'board, housing (and) fuel' were core, nonfringe benefits critical to protecting the basic health and survival of workers injured in the early 1900s, whose suffering such legislative language was originally designed to reduce, so also were the health care premiums paid by Cockle's employer in exchange for her labor in the late 1900s a nonfringe component of her lost 'wages.' The value of such premiums should have been included in the RCW 51.08.178 basis used to calculate her workers' compensation payments."

Stay tuned. The Washington State Labor Council will report further developments on this issue -- including any legislative "remedies" proposed in Olympia.

Back to Contents

Sign the Auburn burn barrel

Auburn Council Rep Paul Bowman writes: "It was GREAT to see a lot of you at the strike commemoration event during lunch on Feb. 9th.There were hundreds of us out there remembering the unity we had during the strike, and the snacks were good too! I hope you had a chance to sign the Auburn burn barrel, but if you didn't you still have a chance to.

We found the perfect spot to display our Auburn Burn Barrel after the lunchtime event - the CCD ESPRESSO SHOP. It is operated by Joe Miller. Joe and the other employees at CCD drove around the Auburn plants and gave out coffee at all times of the day and night during our 40-day strike. He has agreed to let us put the commemorative burn barrel in his store at 801 C St. SW, across the street from Longhorn BBQ. If you did not get a chance to sign it, please stop by to do so.

"We are all lucky to have supporters like Joe, so let's repay his kindness by showing support for him. If you don't drink coffee, he just added smoothies to his menu, and he has just started offering a wide variety of sandwiches. So grab a snack when you drop in to sign the barrel. Their hours are 4 a.m. to 4 p.m."

Back to Contents

Portland joins celebration
By Chris Carpenter, Portland Council Rep

As you all know, Portland is always different than the rest of the crowd, and Friday was no exception. It was an uneventful celebration that will go down in the history books for Boeing Portland. The Boeing Company (HR - Jaimee Milton) worked together with SPEEA and let the celebration go on as planned on Company property in the 85-001 Cafeteria. There had been a misunderstanding on where this celebration was to take place. In the 11th hour, the Company and SPEEA negotiated (with the help of Kristin Farr and Robbi Alberts) as to what we should do. Management felt this celebration was going to look like a campaigning drive if it was going to be on Company property. It was agreed that there would be no posters and that I would need to keep the crowd under control. It was also made clear that "This was in no way to be looked at by anyone that The Boeing Company supports this action. It should be understood that The Boeing Company does not support our leaving or our successful return." Nothing like a good hard negotiation just before a celebration.

A pizza feed was enjoyed by all. There were SPEEA, IAM, Boeing Security, ARA employees, HR and Management in attendance; and many participated in the pizza feed with SPEEA cookies and SPEEA cups, pens and badge ties given out. This was truly a Celebration to remember. There were many people from the IAM who stated "I wish our Union would do something like this for us". Many of the IAM members in attendance commented on the gifts (Coffee cups, Badge ties, and pens) given out, wishing that their dues would go to things like this. There needs to be thanks given to Jeff Thurnau and Matt Carter for helping to put together this celebration. Jeff Thurnau donated his time and around $100.00 of his own money to support the pizza party, to show his support for this Union and to give something back to the people who supported him during our time off.

Back to Contents

Fourth part in a series studying how Shareholder Value affects our jobs and our futures.

Our Jobs - Our Future, Part 4

Adapting to Shareholder Value
by Stan Sorscher, SPEEA Staff

Three previous articles in this series (February 2, 9, and 16 Newsletters) looked at the Shareholder Value business model from different perspectives. The first listed short-comings of out-sourcing, including appropriate cost comparisons, authority over process improvement, spares, coordination costs, sub-optimization, and reduced critical mass when developing new business.

The second article asked how we will develop new markets, new product lines and new services. We have a choice of relying on our existing engineering resources, or we could diversify through financial transactions, such as mergers or acquisitions.

The third article considered the idea of having a career with a long-term commitment to Boeing. In the "New Economy", employers often hire people from the labor market when needed; then return them to the labor market at the end of a project.

Shareholder Value will force us to adapt in many ways. This article will cover some possible reactions.

Broader Skills

In the Shareholder Value model, much of our activity at Boeing would shift from technical work to program administration. Boeing's responsibilities will concentrate on product development, final assembly, supply chain management, and system integration.

In our previous environment, an individual's technical skills were sharply focused on one subject area. In the future, program administrators and system integrators will need broader expertise in many key areas, with emphasis on organizational and business skills rather than specific technical expertise.

Stronger Interaction with the Labor Market

System integration, program management, and business background are extremely valuable skills. Our younger people will not be designing as much, nor would they be working directly with manufacturing processes, so they would not learn the technical lessons needed to be fully-developed system integrators or project managers. Most technical apprenticeship and mentor-protégé experiences would not exist.

In the "marketability" model, we could simply acquire those skills from outside, rather than develop them internally. In the intermediate and long-term, we will probably hire fewer new engineering or technical graduates, and more people with industry experience. We might raid suppliers for program leaders, or develop a career-path arrangement within the supplier base. For instance, college graduates could start with suppliers, gain experience in one or more technical areas, then move on to a system integration role downstream closer to delivery of the product.

This is a critical issue, since program management and system integration have greatly magnified urgency in this business model. That is where we will add value and generate profit. Project management depends critically on careful planning, clear communication, ability to recognize problems and the judgment and authority to respond appropriately.

Stronger Interaction with Suppliers

As the supplier network takes more responsibility, we will need a very high level of interaction with the suppliers' operational departments. Suppliers will be treated more like partners. System integrators may need to invest directly in process improvement, increased capacity and infrastructure for suppliers.

We should see stronger interaction of people. The success of supplier networks in Silicon Valley is probably due, at least partly, to the geographic concentration, personal contacts, and high mobility of labor and ideas in the area. The important social connections that generate value within a large company are partially recreated in the Silicon Valley supplier community. We might want to exchange employees between Boeing and suppliers, perhaps reviving "industry assist" relationships from several years ago.

In the Shareholder Value model, it makes less sense to conduct R&D at Boeing, when design and manufacture are managed by suppliers. Industrial R&D is often directed at specific production problems, so the suppliers should be brought into the R&D process. Boeing may want to sponsor projects, in coordination with suppliers as "customers" for the projects. This would be another way to recreate the social connections of the technical community at Boeing as our research community dissolves into the labor market.

Risk Factors

One obvious failure mode for this transition is that we will simply lose expertise and accumulated knowledge, and never transfer it or recreate it with suppliers. If knowledge walks out the door headed for Intel, Ford, or Qualcomm, it may not be available to us when we call for it. Some "New Economy" industries enjoy ready access to well-developed supplier and labor networks. That is not necessarily true in our case.

Another risk factor is the transfer of key competitive control to suppliers. We would choose to shift important functions to suppliers because they can "do it better than we can." Our competitive advantage must be built on whatever work remains.

Back to Contents

Annual enrollment -
Medical, Dental, LTD, VPA and eligible domestic partners

The health & welfare annual enrollment period for SPEEA-represented employees covered by the Puget Sound Contracts has been set. During the period from May 1st through the 25th, employees may:

* Change their medical or dental plan coverage

* Opt to purchase Long-Term Disability Insurance

* Enroll their eligible same-gender domestic partner in coverage for Medical, Dental and/or VPA

Prior to the annual enrollment period, employees will receive information in the mail. It will also be posted on the Boeing Compensation & Benefits Web site at

This open enrollment period for Long-Term Disability Insurance coverage is offered for the first time in several years, an option that SPEEA has requested. Normally employees are only allowed to sign up for this LTD insurance at their new-hire orientation.

SPEEA also sought domestic partner coverage during negotiations. The Company agreed to offer "same gender" coverage only. They implemented that coverage for nonunion employees during their annual enrollment period effective January 1, 2001.

Effective Date of changes

Any changes for SPEEA-represented employees requested during this open enrollment period will become effective July 1, 2001.

Back to Contents

Retiree data-gathering request
By Don Shuper, 1995 retiree

As a result of my activities in examining the pension sawtooth problem described in SPEEA articles, I have come to the following initial conclusions and made the following arrangements for purposes of investigation.

1) Each January, the retirement calculation is updated for a new "covered compensation" amount.

2) The effect probably averages a few hundred dollars in the calculated annual benefit.

3) Boeing has in some, but not all, cases leveled your final benefit calculations (e.g given you the highest value of the December or Jan or Feb calculation) if your retirement date was in Jan or Feb.

4) The same thing has happened concerning the effects of productivity payments (lump sums) on your benefit calculation.

5) All of the above raises questions as to how Boeing calculates these benefits.

For purposes of investigation to verify the above, I would like to contact any retiree who is interested in determining Boeing's past practices. Initially, I want to focus on retirees who fall into the following group.

Retirement year: 1995, 96 or 97 - especially 1995.

Last day of work in Dec, Jan or Feb [retirement month is then Jan, Feb, or March]

If you are willing to share your benefit statements and salary history information, I can put you in contact with a lawyer who has agreed to investigate the details at no cost or obligation to you, except for your personal time, and minor copying costs. At this time it is strictly an investigation to determine what, if anything, might be done.

DO NOT send your specific information to me. Please call me at (425) 885-9528 or email me at

/s/ Don Shuper

Back to Contents

New SPEEA discounters

At their meeting on February 15, 2001, the SPEEA Executive Board approved adding the following two firms to the SPEEA Discount List:

BONNEY-WATSON/WASHINGTON MEMORIAL PARK (Burien) - 206/795-5468 (ask for Dennis Beverlin). On a pre-arranged basis only, 8% off all funeral home charges; and up to $3,000 discount towards cemetery property both for burial and cremation. (Transferable to over 6,000 funeral homes in the United States.) Guaranteeing cost of services selected ahead of time guarantees against inflation.

RE/MAX EASTSIDE BROKERS & the "Right Stuff" Team (Mill Creek, Everett, Bellevue & Seattle) - 1-800-735-1348 or (425) 486-1777. Cell (206) 235-7714. 20% discount off regular rates for buying/selling Real Estate. (Reg. 3% commission on listing side and 3% commission on buying side.) E-mail: website:

An updated Discount List will be included in the April 2001 SPEEA SPOTLITE.

Back to Contents

CWU offers MS in Engineering Technology

A need has been identified in the State of Washington for a Master of Science in Engineering Technology (MSET) degree. In a high-tech state like Washington, technology is advancing so rapidly that it is necessary to expose the engineering technologist to some of the latest advances, updating their knowledge base.

Central Washington University (CWU) is the only institution in the Pacific Northwest that has accepted the challenge to offer this program. CWU's MSET program is multi-disciplinary in its course offerings, serving a wide range of students, giving graduates sufficient choices to fit diverse needs - and promoting the notion of life-long learning as a way of professional life.

CWU is currently offering the program at the Boeing/Auburn facility in an after-hours work program. Boeing employees progress through the program in a two-year cycle. Each course is taught once a week from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Classroom space is still available at the Auburn site for Boeing employees wishing to further their education at the master's degree level.

For more information, check out their website at

Or you can contact Dr. Walt Kaminski, Program Coordinator, at (509) 963-1477 or email -- or -contact Dr. T.Q. Yang, West Side Program Coordinator, at (253) 840-8485 or email

For questions or concerns dealing with Boeing's Learning Together Program, call Deanna Reynon at (253) 931-5717.

Back to Contents

Weekly Meetings

Feb. 26
Council Officers
5:00 PM
Feb. 28
Legislative & Public Affairs Sub Committee
5:00 PM
Mar. 1
Executive Board
4:00 PM
Mar. 5
Everett Site Assembly
5:00 PM
Mar. 7
Employee Diversity Team
5:00 PM
Mar. 8
Council Meeting (Bellevue Inn)
5:30 PM

Back to Contents