Labor unions, Boeing, and COVID-19

Rachel Matteson, Staff Writer

During these uncertain times, companies around the country are making difficult decisions in order to keep their employees working and to provide them with a safe work environment. But unemployment has continued to climb, and major corporations have started to take drastic measures. 

Dave Calhoun, the CEO of Boeing, announced on April 29th, 2020, that they would be laying off almost 10% of their workforce company-wide. Since that announcement, they have revised that number to 15%. Boeing currently has around 160,000 employees, so they would be laying off about 24,000 people.

These decisions call into question how the labor unions representing those employees are responding to Boeing, and what they feel the future may look like. 

“The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) first reacted by reaching out to Boeing and asking if there was anything that could be done to brainstorm alternatives to layoffs. Boeing’s answer was no.

SPEEA next shifted to gathering the information we need to administer the collective bargaining agreement lay-off provisions. The CBAs contain the processes and criteria Boeing is supposed to use when laying off employees.  Our focus is on making sure those rules are followed,” executive director of SPEEA Ray Goforth said. 

However, sorting out these issues during the pandemic hasn’t been an easy task for the labor union. 

“Our involvement has been largely collaborative with a healthy dose of conflict.  What lots of people don’t understand about Boeing is that in many ways, it’s actually multiple different companies within the company. These different divisions of the company don’t always collaborate well with each other…so they sometimes work at cross purposes,” Goforth said. 

Despite being unable to find an alternative with Boeing laying off employees, SPEEA plans to offer support to those employees that are let go.

“SPEEA will be working with individuals impacted to help them find assistance and/or provide assistance ourselves. We have a SPEEA Cares fund that can provide limited financial assistance,” Goforth said. 

While there’s still uncertainties during this time, the labor unions are working to support the potential employees that will lose their jobs.