Union leaders and lawmakers call for resolution in Boeing firefighter lockout

May 14, 2024

Unions and lawmakers rally for firefighter contract deal

Union leaders and U.S. lawmakers have criticized Boeing’s lockout of its unionized firefighters, urging the company to reach a contract agreement.

As reported by Reuters, Boeing locked out about 130 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local I-66 earlier this month after they rejected two contract offers.

This move has drawn attention, including concern from President Joe Biden last week.

At a rally outside Boeing headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, IAFF President Edward Kelly, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, and Representative Val Hoyle called on Boeing to negotiate.

Kelly said Boeing expects firefighters to work nearly 20 years to reach top pay but remains hopeful that talks will resume soon.

Kelly added: “If they can break us and set a pattern, that will then translate into the contract of the larger unions. That’s where the real savings are.”

Calls for Boeing to prioritize safety and fair wages

Representative Val Hoyle expressed hope that Boeing would engage in negotiations, emphasizing the importance of investing in their workforce.

Hoyle stated: “They prioritize safety and they invest in their workforce.”

On social media, Democratic Senator John Fetterman also urged Boeing to focus on retaining critical safety workers and paying dignified wages, especially in light of recent safety and quality control issues where these workers may be needed.

Boeing, which did not comment on Monday, previously stated that their contract offer to increase firefighters’ average take-home pay from $91,000 to $112,000 in the first year remains available.

Boeing emphasized: “We remain committed to securing an agreement. The union should allow our employees to vote (on) our offer, which was presented before the lockout.”

Broader implications for Boeing’s labor negotiations

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is separately negotiating a new contract for over 30,000 workers who build Boeing’s 737 MAX jets.

Boeing needs to ramp up production, making these negotiations critical.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler commented on the broader impact, suggesting Boeing’s actions with the firefighters could influence other union contracts.

Shuler stated: “What makes the company safer ultimately makes the company more trusted and more profitable.”

Boeing 737 MAX jetliner production has significantly decreased as U.S. regulators increase factory checks following an assembly error that caused a blowout on a new Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 in January.

FSJA Comment

The lockout of unionized firefighters at Boeing highlights ongoing labor tensions within major industries.

As Boeing navigates its labor negotiations, the outcomes will likely set precedents for future contracts, impacting both the workforce and the company’s operational capabilities.

The broader implications for other unions and the company’s production targets, especially concerning the 737 MAX jets, make this an issue of considerable interest to industry observers and stakeholders.

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