Boeing faces standoff with fire fighters over pay disputes

May 10, 2024

Boeing locks out Washington state fire fighters amid pay and safety negotiations

As reported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Boeing has initiated a lockout against Local I-66, the unit representing fire fighters and emergency medical workers at the company’s six facilities in Washington State.

This action marks a significant escalation in the ongoing dispute over fair compensation and safety concerns that has been unfolding for several months.

Local I-66 encompasses 125 fire fighters who are responsible for the safety and security of Boeing’s personnel and properties.

In response to the lockout, members and their supporters have maintained continuous picket lines at various Boeing locations, advocating for a fair contract and the opportunity to resume their duties promptly.

The crux of the dispute: Pay scales and safety concerns

The contention primarily revolves around the remuneration and working conditions offered to Boeing’s fire fighters.

According to Local I-66 President Casey Yeager: “We love working for Boeing. The company and the thousands of people working for them are like our family.

“But the time has come for Boeing to get serious about its safety culture, and that includes treating its dedicated fire fighters fairly.”

Currently, starting wages for Boeing fire fighters are at $25 per hour, translating to an annual income of approximately $52,000.

The progression to top pay, which takes 14 years under current terms, is a major point of contention, with Boeing proposing to extend this period to 19 years.

These conditions have reportedly led to chronic understaffing, as many fire fighters depart for better-paying opportunities in municipal fire services.

Federal perspectives and union solidarity

The situation has drawn attention from various quarters, including federal figures and other labor unions.

President Joe Biden expressed his concerns, emphasizing the importance of collective bargaining: “Collective bargaining is a right that helps employers and employees.  I’m concerned by reports that Boeing locked out IAFF I-66 members.

“I encourage folks to return to the table to secure a deal that benefits Boeing and gets these fire fighters the pay and benefits they deserve.”

Furthermore, solidarity is apparent from other Boeing unions like the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), all of whom have vowed to support the fire fighters’ picket lines.

Ongoing risks and calls for resolution

Despite these challenges, Boeing has not yielded in negotiations, even as the lockout extends into its third month.

The company’s reliance on municipal fire departments during the lockout has been criticized as a temporary and potentially risky solution.

As the dispute continues, voices like General President Edward Kelly of the IAFF highlight the broader implications: “Boeing is one of the richest companies in the world, and has made billions by putting profits over safety, nickel-and-diming the frontline fire fighters who protect their factories and workers.

“If Boeing were serious about safety, it would improve the working conditions of its fire fighters and pay them fairly for the critical service they provide.”

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