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Friday, February 1, 2013 - 3:00am

Boeing Engineers' Union Votes To Put Strike Authorization On Ballot

Union leaders representing engineers at Boeing voted Thursday to include strike authorization on ballots going to members next week.

Here's more from the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace:

"Council representatives voted to add strike authorization to the ballots during a special meeting Thursday (Jan. 31). The councils' also voted to join the two negotiation teams in their recommendations that SPEEA members REJECT the company's latest contract offers to 7,400 Technical and 15, 550 Professional employees. The votes by the Technical Unit representatives were unanimous. The Professional Unit representatives voted to add strike authorization to the ballot and recommend rejection with only one dissenting vote."

Members have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 19 to cast their vote.

Ashley Gross, a reporter for NPR member station KPIU, reported on the standoff between the two sides on Thursday's Morning Edition She says that the urgency of the investigation into malfunctioning batteries on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft brought both sides closer to a deal, but they are both still at loggerheads. Here's an excerpt from her report:

"Boeing wants to offer new employees a so-called defined contribution plan like a 401(k) instead of a defined benefit plan like a traditional pension. Boeing is just following lots of other companies, such as GE, Lockheed Martin and the automakers."

She adds that Boeing's pension obligation totals $75 billion, more than its stock market value; the pension is only three-quarters funded. And here's the key:

"The union says new hires will be shortchanged. Company officials concede new workers will get less than current employees, but they say the offer is still generous. So that's a pickle: Do current employees strike on behalf of future employees? Union leaders say this is important because giving in would split employees into factions and start a downward slide in compensation."

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