Business
7:29 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Picket training begins as SPEEA preps for a possible Boeing strike

Contract talks between Boeing and its engineers union are suspended till after the new year. But the union, SPEEA, is not standing still - they're training picket captains for a possible strike.

About 60 Boeing engineers and technicians pack into a room at union headquarters at dinnertime. They munch on sandwiches and listen to SPEEA organizer Carrie Blackwood lay out the drill – one that many of them are familiar with.

Blackwood asks how many were picket captains in 1999. At least two-thirds of the hands go up.

A lot of this crowd picketed for 40 cold, wet days during the only major strike in SPEEA's history more than a decade ago. One of them was Judy Mogan, a technical designer who works in Auburn.

She says she's frustrated that Boeing is offering smaller wage increases to technicians than to engineers – she says the company's trying to divide the union.

"It sounds so much like the 2000 version," Mogan said. "It seems like they've dug in and I truly think that they believe we won't strike."

Mogan says Boeing executives are wrong. She says her coworkers are fed up.

"They wanted to go out a month ago," Mogan said. "The first offer the company gave us, they would have voted to strike, out in the fab division where I work in Auburn. They didn't want to wait."

Boeing officials have said their latest offer is fair. The company says it needs to reward employees and – at the same time - keep expenses in check – especially as health care costs soar. Talks will resume with a federal mediator early next year.