SPEEA begins to count votes on Boeing contract offer

02/19/2013 10:59 AM

02/19/2013 11:07 AM

The union for Boeing Co.’s engineers and technical workers is counting ballots Tuesday on a contract offer and whether to authorize a strike.

The vote comes as the company is trying to solve battery problems that have grounded its new 787s.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace is recommending that members reject the contract offer because it would not provide pensions to new employees. They would have a 401k retirement plan instead. The union calls that unacceptable, but Chicago-based Boeing says the change is important to the company’s future.

The union represents 23,000 employees, mostly in the Puget Sound region. Negotiations began in April and union members rejected one offer in October. If negotiations fail, the union also wants the authority to call a strike. The previous contract expired in November. SPEEA went on strike for 40 days in 2000.

Union leaders believe a strike would shut down Boeing production lines in Everett, Wash., where its big planes are made, as well as Renton, Wash., where it cranks out more than one of its widely used 737s.

A long strike also likely would affect suppliers, such as Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.

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