Boeing SPEEA Strike Case Study

Essay add: 3-11-2015, 17:59   /   Views: 84
Boeing - SPEEA Strike Case Study

When the word “union” or “strike” comes to mind, it is generally a vision of the typical industrial, assembly line worker. With this strike in particular, it is quite the opposite. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) is among the brightest and smartest people in the country. Typically, these are not the type of people that generally strike. They held the longest white-collar strike in U.S. history; which started on February 9, 2000, and ended on March 19, 2000. This strike was the pioneer for other white-collar employees to collectively strike and bargain with their employers.

At Boeing Co., there are about 200,000 employees and two unions, the largest of which is the International Association of Machinists (IAM). In 1995, there had been a 69-day strike among the IAM workers, which had resulted with a strong “partnership” with Boeing. Because of this strong “partnership” between Boeing and the IAM, the SPEEA workers were starting to feel like Boeing hasn’t taken them seriously enough. Come December of 1999, the SPEEA contract with Boeing was going to expire.

Prior to the strike, there were demands on both sides during contract negotiations. Boeing was offering the SPEEA a five percent wage increase in the first year, and then four percent the remaining years. All these increases were at the company’s discretion, and were based on merit only. The SPEEA workers were demanding that Boeing give them guaranteed annual wage increases. Additionally, SPEEA members were dissatisfied with decreasing medical benefits and a lack of respect for employees by management.

For weeks prior to the strike, the SPEEA rejected several offers by Boeing, and was growing increasingly dissatisfied with their lack of negotiation skills. So on February 9, 2000 17,000 members walked off the job at Boeing Co.

This strike was the first full-scale strike by the SPEEA, not counting a 24-hour strike back in 1992. At the beginning of the strike, management took on the attitude that the engineers were not needed, and that they would not be that harshly affected by the strikers. As the strike wore on, they were realizing that they were wrong. In February of 2000, only 15 out of the 42 planes ordered were delivered on time. In March, there were no planes delivered because they had no engineers to clear the safety checks, which were required by law. On top of this, IAM workers also supported the strike, but were prohibited by a “no-strike” clause in their contract, which forbids them to strike in support of another union’s strike. Since the IAM supported the SPEEA, they applauded in the hallways of Boeing when the UPS refused to cross picket lines for delivery because they didn’t want to interfere with any strike issues. With all these issues going on, Boeing also lost twenty-five percent of it’s stock value, and was also losing their market share to European rival, Airbus. Since the strike was negatively affecting Boeing, the company decided that it was time to settle.

On March 19, 2000, after 40 days of striking, Boeing and the SPEEA settled on a contract. In the new contract, employees are guaranteed wage increases of at least 9 percent over three years, and bonuses of up to $2,500. On top of this, Boeing is eliminating all co-pays and premiums on health insurance. Most importantly, the SPEEA got the respect from management that they deserved.

This strike was a major victory for the SPEEA, since it was the largest strike in white-collar history. There were some negative effects to the end of the strike, though. Since Boeing is the major supplier of airplanes for the United States, the economy had an economic growth slowdown of 0.8%. Luckily, this was the only negative effect of the strike.

The biggest benefit that came from this strike was that the engineers and technical staff now get the respect that they deserve. They have shown Boeing and other companies that white-collar workers also deserve to be taken seriously when it comes to collective bargaining and strikes. The Boeing-SPEEA strike was definitely not your typical strike.

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