Leader of Boeing engineers brings militant tone

Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:53am EST
 

By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ray Goforth leads a union of 23,000 Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) engineers who revel in their pocket-protector image. Their rally posters and buttons read "No Nerds, No Birds." They use spreadsheets to argue about details of their labor contracts.

And they rarely strike. In nearly 70 years of representation, the members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace have walked out on just two occasions for a total of 41 days - earning them a reputation for being pushovers in negotiations.

But under Goforth as executive director, the union has marched steadily, and with a new militancy, toward a strike that could affect how quickly Boeing can implement a fix to its grounded 787 Dreamliner.

SPEEA Members are voting this week on whether to reject Boeing's latest contract offer and authorize a strike, as Goforth and other union leaders recommend.

On Tuesday, the union will tally the votes. And even the union is not sure of the outcome. "It's really too close to tell," said Tom McCarty, president of SPEEA.

Goforth said: "The vote is going to be 60-40, but I don't know which way."

At stake is an estimated $200 million a month in cash that Boeing is losing by not delivering the 787, which is grounded until a fix for its burning battery problem is found and regulators approve it.

A walkout by engineers also could slow or halt production on Boeing's other airplane lines for the 737, 777, 767 and 747, several of which have been speeded up to capitalize on a huge book of orders.   Continued...

 
Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), poses for a picture at the union's headquarters near Seattle, Washington, October 19, 2012. In nearly 70 years of representation, the members of the SPEEA have walked out on just two occasions for a total of 41 days - earning them a reputation for being pushovers in negotiations. But under Goforth as executive director, the union has marched steadily, and with a new militancy, toward a strike that could affect how quickly Boeing can implement a fix to its grounded 787 Dreamliner. Picture taken October 19, 2012. To match Newsmaker BOEING-LABOR/GOFORTH REUTERS/Alwyn Scott