Boeing's Tech Workers Vote To Authorize Strike

fromKPLU

Boeing has its hands full right now. It is still trying to get to the bottom of a battery fire on one of its new 787s, and now technical workers have authorized a strike. They'll negotiate again before a walkout.

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Boeing has won a partial victory in a contract dispute with its engineering union, and that reduces the odds of a strike, as Ashley Gross of member station KPLU in Seattle reports.

ASHLEY GROSS, BYLINE: The engineering union covers two sets of workers - salaried engineers and hourly technical workers. The engineers voted to accept Boeing's final offer. The technical workers rejected it and authorized a strike.

They'll negotiate again before a walkout, but that split vote puts union leaders like Tom McCarty in a tough position.

TOM MCCARTY: It changes the dynamic. We will have less leverage.

GROSS: Since the engineers have accepted the contract, they can't walk out. That means a much smaller potential strike - about 7,400 people instead of 23,000, if engineers were included. That takes some of the pressure off of a company already in crisis. Boeing has been racing to fix the batteries on its flagship 787 Dreamliner.

Technical worker Joel Funfar says he and other techs are worried about changes to Boeing's retirement plan. That was less of an issue for the engineers, known as profs.

JOEL FUNFAR: The techs make less so they maybe don't have as much money to invest as some of the profs.

GROSS: Boeing wants to offer new hires a 401(k)-type retirement plan instead of a pension. The company says it needs to get a handle on pension costs so it can have more money to invest in designing new airplanes.

Union leaders say they want to head back to the bargaining table. Boeing says it will do that, but it's called the contract its best and final offer.

For NPR News, I'm Ashley Gross, in Seattle.

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