March 29, 2002 Newsletter #1874
You may have heard about Alan Mulally's "stop whining" comments to a business breakfast at the UW last week. I was out of town and was left to read the papers and hear reports from SPEEA members. What was fascinating, as is often the case, is that everyone heard something a bit different.
Here's how it looked from a distance:
An early AP release reported that Alan had some harsh words for people who complain about the way the Company is changing; and told a business breakfast at the University of Washington those people should "stop whining." The release went on to say Mulally told the group if the new Boeing didn't work for you "it's OK, get another life."
The South County Journal reported the "stop whining," but also said that Alan "made it clear he was not singling out any one group."
The Seattle P-I reported, "(Alan) even kidded his UW business school audience to 'stop whining' about all the changes going on with Boeing."
I got an email from a member yesterday on the topic (it was one of a few)
I was wondering if SPEEA is going to make an official statement about Alan Mullaly's comments made yesterday at the UW. Paraphrased, 'If you don't like the new Boeing, get another life'. We in the trenches see management's course with the Company as sacrificing the long-term health of Boeing for short-term returns. That strategy spells doom for Boeing, the workers, and the stockholders. But you already know that. This man has no respect for the Engineers who keep Boeing running. We should have some kind of rebuttal.
On the Respect issue:
I don't often disagree with members in public, but I have to this one time. I believe that Alan has respect for all employees reporting to him and believes in working together. I believe he respected SPEEA before some others at Boeing, who only got their respect for SPEEA during our strike. Our strike was about respect, and now we have it - from both those who give it freely and those who only do so begrudgingly. But the bottom line is that SPEEA-represented employees are respected.
On the "Stop Whining" quote:
I can't believe it was directed at us. In years past I might have felt differently, but not this year. People whine when they don't like a situation but can't do anything about it. SPEEA has proven that we CAN and DO take action to correct things we don't like. SPEEA hasn't been whining, we have been working to make Boeing the company we want it to be. We have been engaging in joint partnership activities, teaming with other unions at Boeing, and preparing for negotiations and all possible outcomes. I'm not certain who Alan's comments were directed at, but it wasn't us because we don't whine; we take action.
On the larger issue of where Boeing is headed and what are the best ways to move forward:
Today we don't agree with Boeing's plan and tactics, as we understand them. We believe that things are being done wrong. We are against outsourcing and offloading of jobs that rob Boeing of expertise and increase costs (including coordination costs and rework). We believe that our wages are too low and medical and pension benefits should be a commitment, not a cost to contain. These will be topics of negotiations and we are already involving members, gathering data and preparing to make changes that will honor our members. We will engage Boeing to fully explore and understand their plans and to change them where they are unacceptable to us. We have no plans for whining, only winning.
I don't know who Alan was talking to, but I do know that it wasn't us. However, I do look forward to talking with Alan and his team during negotiations to help get Boeing on the right track and moving forward in ways that appropriately honor and reward employees.
New Discounters approved
At their March 21st meeting, the Executive Board approved adding the following firms to the SPEEA Discount List:
Keith T. McClelland, Attorney at Law (17544 Midvale Ave N, Shoreline) - 206/542-3138. Initial consultation free. 20% discount off hourly rates for wills, probate, real estate, business and family legal services. Contingency discount on personal injury suits including auto accidents.
Portia Financial Services (Bellevue). 25% loan origination credit (value up to $700) to be applied towards closing costs for any SPEEA member closing a home loan through Portia Financial Services. Please contact Michael Hebaus at 1-800-309-5053 or email: email@example.com
Watch for the
newly updated SPEEA Discount List that is included in the April SPOTLITE
mailing to all members' homes.
[Reprinted from 10/30/98 SPEEA Newsletter]
Just Cause, Good Faith and Fair Dealing
by Stan Sorscher, then SPEEA Executive Board Member (now SPEEA Staff)
Publicity about Lawsuits
Several employees and former employees have taken legal action against Boeing, alleging unfair treatment by the Company. Jesse Jackson met with Phil Condit and toured the Renton factory, highlighting the issue in the public media.
Any claim in the Courts must be based on law. The law may define protected classes, and we understand that employers may not discriminate on the basis of minority status, religion or disability. However, it is a fact in America that employers generally have no legal obligation to treat employees fairly. There is no law compelling fair dealing or even good faith conduct between employees and employers.
"Employment at Will" versus "Just Cause"
Washington state, in particular, is an "employment at will" state. Employers take this doctrine seriously, and are not inclined to dilute their authority to hire and fire without condition.
However, SPEEA's contracts address this problem. Boeing and SPEEA have agreed that standards of "just cause" will apply in the administration of discipline. The standards are quite reasonable. Employees must be aware that their actions could lead to discipline; the rules must be reasonably related to the Company's business; a fair and objective investigation must be conducted to determine that the employee violated rules; substantial evidence of guilt must be found; the rules must be applied even-handedly; and any punishment must be reasonably related to the seriousness of the employee's offense.
In the event that the Company fails to meet the standards of just cause, SPEEA may appeal to an independent arbitrator, who may substitute his or her judgment for the employer's, and may impose remedies to correct unjust punishment.
"Just Cause" as a Contractual Issue
The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that employment-at-will is a compelling doctrine that is not easily overcome. Not all union contracts provide for "just cause." As a case in point, public defenders organized a union in Seattle, but the District Attorney, Mark Sidran, insisted that he retain complete authority to fire public defenders "at will."
Commitment to Good Faith and Fair Dealing
The Boeing integrity statement commits the Company to actions based on uncompromising values. Among other actions, Boeing will "Deal fairly in all our relationships" and "Treat each other with respect." Published policies regarding discipline are actually rather enlightened, and provide substance to many measures of just cause.
However, these commitments are not binding, nor are they enforceable in court. A former Boeing supervisor in Auburn was terminated (fired), and later filed suit in Federal Court. Her cause of action was based, in part, on a claim that Boeing failed to act in good faith, did not deal fairly in her case, failing to follow its own policies and procedures for administration of discipline.
In Washington State, we may be held accountable for oral commitments in commercial transactions, and we may be compelled to honor promises in "palimony" cases or other situations. However, the Washington State Supreme Court has expressly refused to apply the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as a substantive limitation on the employer's right to discharge. In spite of uncompromising commitments to fairness at the highest level, Boeing's legal counsel sought dismissal of the former supervisor's claim of breach of implied good faith and fair dealing. The Court agreed, and dismissed the claim.
Discipline Under Our Contracts
SPEEA-represented employees are held accountable for our actions at work, as we should be. It is not SPEEA's goal to "beat the rap" when employees are charged with misconduct. Rather, it is our interest to ensure that reasonable rules are applied, that the employer acts in good faith, and if guilt is demonstrated, that discipline is administered fairly. We are committed to a process based on just cause. That is plenty challenging in itself!
Through our contracts, we routinely hold management to reasonable and fair standards of conduct. SPEEA-represented employees are disciplined and sometimes terminated, but the published processes are enforced, and management's actions are subject to review by impartial arbitrators. In that sense, we apply a valuable and substantial mechanism for holding management accountable to its own stated principles.
New employee grateful for help to resolve insurance mix-up
In early January, the Everett SPEEA Office received a call from a member who was having problems with his enrollment in his medical insurance of choice. The Contract Administrator (CA) learned that the member was a newly-hired employee and through a series of miscues had been automatically enrolled in the Traditional Medical Plan.
Part of the problem had to do with the timing and routing of the letters offering him choices for the plan he desired. When he located the paperwork, the deadline had passed.
The member was distraught because he had specific reasons for choosing a plan other than Traditional.
The CA contacted representatives at the Company on his behalf. Within a couple of weeks the matter was resolved and the member was able to select his plan of choice.
The member was very pleased with the result and sent this message to the Everett Office:
"They approved my appeal and so I was able to get the Health Coverage that best fits our needs. I appreciate all that you did to make this happen."
SPEEA is also appreciative of the responsiveness by Company Benefits representatives in cases like this. They frequently help us get "the right thing" done for those we represent. [MM]
CPI - February 2002
The U.S. City Average all-items Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners & clerical workers (CPI-W) on a 1982-84=100 base for February 2002 is 173.7. (On a 1967=100 base, the February index is 517.5.) This is a 0.2% increase from one month ago, and a 0.8% increase from a year ago.