NLRB Judge: Boeing Failed To Bargain In Good Faith With SPEEA

Aug 1, 2014

Boeing failed to negotiate in good faith when it refused to provide evidence to substantiate its claim that workers in the Puget Sound area cost more than workers elsewhere, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled Friday.

The ruling was in response to an unfair labor practice charge filed by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA.

According to the judge’s decision, Boeing and SPEEA entered negotiation talks in April 2012, when SPEEA proposed extending the existing contract by four more years. Boeing, in turn, proposed reducing the existing 5 percent wage pools to 3 percent, which the union rejected.

The union requested wage information five months later, after Boeing of America’s chief engineer Mike Delaney told Bloomberg News, “We’re willing to pay a premium to be in Seattle because there’s a base, there’s great capability, we’ve got a great team, but you if took SPEEA’s proposal, Boeing’s costs would balloon and it wouldn’t be competitive. No customer will pay that kind of premium.”

But the company did not provide any evidence that shows workers in the Puget Sound area do, in fact, come at a premium to the company, despite several subsequent requests.

Boeing argued that it had no reason to fulfill the “vague, ambiguous, and overbroad” request as “it is a statistical and publicly available fact that the Puget Sound has higher wage rates than other geographic regions.”

However, in siding with the union, administrative law judge Dickie Montemayor said Boeing's claims “lack merit.”

“I find Respondent’s [Boeing’s] failure to provide requested information undermined and tainted the bargaining process,” Montemayor wrote, further ordering Boeing to fulfill the request and bargain in good faith.

Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA, said he was surprised by the resounding nature of the judge’s decision, which he called a clear win for engineers, technicians and pilots — all professionals who use information to solve problems.

“Hiding data, hiding information is probably one of the most disrespectful things you can do within an engineering culture,” Goforth said.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company plans to appeal the decision.

"Throughout negotiations with SPEEA, Boeing followed all applicable labor laws," he wrote in an email.

Boeing and SPEEA reached a labor agreement in March 2013, after nearly a year of negotiations. The deal extended the existing contract, including the 5 percent wage pool, by another four years. It also replaced the pension with a 401(k)-style retirement plan for new employees.

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