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Boeing engineers' union to tally strike authorization vote

Ashley Gross

Boeing is facing the specter of a possible engineers’ strike even as the company races to get the 787 Dreamliner back in the air. Tonight, the engineers’ union will tally votes to see whether members have rejected the contract and authorized a strike.

Ballots went out to about 21,000 Boeing engineers and technicians earlier this month. They’ve been weighing whether the company’s proposal to move new hires to a 401(k)-type retirement plan from a pension is worth a strike.

It’s a decision made especially tough in light of the Dreamliner crisis – the union says hundreds of its members are working on a fix to the plane’s batteries.

Tom McCarty is president of the union, known as SPEEA, short for Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. He says union leaders urged members to authorize a strike not because they want to walk out.

"The idea of causing harm to the Boeing company is something that’s very distasteful, that’s not the purpose of this," McCarty said. "The purpose is to exert pressure on management to return to negotiations."

In an emailed statement, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder says the union has portrayed strike authorization as a low consequence vote to bring the company back to the table, but the company doesn’t view it that way. He says Boeing would be legally obligated to meet with SPEEA but that it’s already made its best and final offer.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.