Union rejects Boeing contract in Calif.

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The aerospace union that represents an estimated 1,000 workers on Boeing Co.’s dying C-17 cargo jet program in Long Beach, Calif., rejected a proposed contract because of cuts to pension and medical benefits, union officials announced Thursday.

The company’s offer didn’t even make it to members for a vote.

“The proposal we received from the company is economically inferior and legally detrimental to this membership,” wrote bargaining committee officials for the United Auto Workers Local 148. “As a result, we have rejected the company’s proposal.”

The local union had originally sought a membership vote Tuesday but decided to reject the offer outright in a sternly written letter to Boeing’s chief negotiator, Tom Easley. The union said the offer shortchanged workers in their final six months of work — when they’d be without a contract, as it now stands.

“It’s all in the company’s court right now. We are willing to go back to the table and work something out,” UAW Local 148 President Stan Klemchuk said.

A strike is not immediately in the picture because a five-year contract remains in place until February. The C-17 program ends in August, so a labor disruption in the six months after the current contract ends in February is speculative.

Boeing’s Easley offered UAW’s bargaining committee, headed by Guy Coniglio, a “best and final” offer April 11 that would have shorted aging aerospace workers at the factory in Long Beach on their pension and medical benefits as they approach the twin marks of 30 years of service and age 55.

Hitting the twin marks gives members full pension payouts and medical benefits, according to Klemchuk. The union is concerned, however, that roughly 280 of its members are less than a year short of 30 years of service and could get their pension cut by as much as 42 percent and greatly reduced medical benefits, had the contract been approved.

In Boeing’s latest offer, the contract guaranteed a signing bonus of $4,000, 13 weeks of severance pay (which equates to roughly $21,000) and a bump in pension payments by $4 to $85 monthly per year of service.