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Safety first? Boeing picks contract fight with its fire fighters

SEATTLE (April 23, 2024) — At a time when The Boeing Co. is facing an international crisis of confidence and calls from governments, airline customers, and the general public to restore its focus on safety, the company has decided to pick a contract fight with the people who keep Boeing itself safe.

The more than 120 fire fighters who protect Boeing employees and facilities in Washington state — members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local I-66 — are struggling to get a fair contract from the Arlington, Virginia-based company.

Boeing’s “last, best and final offer” to the fire fighters was rejected by more than 80 percent of IAFF I-66 members. The union says the offer failed to address fire fighters’ concerns about short staffing, pay that’s significantly lower than local fire departments, and step increases that take 19 years to reach the top of the pay scale, among other concerns.

With a “cooling off period” between the two parties set to expire May 3, unions representing Boeing employees and nearby fire fighters and EMTs are expressing their support for IAFF I-66 and their demands for a fair contract.

“The fire fighters at Boeing perform critical functions that ensure the safety of the people who work for the company as well as the security of the company’s buildings and equipment,” wrote the Executive Board of SPEEA/IFPTE Local 2001 in an April 15 letter. “In addition to saving Boeing billions of dollars in insurance premiums through fire prevention, their presence at Boeing’s Puget Sound facilities has literally saved lives. Given all the benefits these Boeing workers provide to the company and its shareholders — and at a time when Boeing safety practices are under global scrutiny — we find it hard to understand why the company is choosing to pick a fight with the frontline safety providers of Local I-66.”

“(Boeing fire fighters) rightfully deserve more and their resounding rejection of the company’s last, best, and final offer by more than 80% resonates loudly,” wrote IAM 751 President Jon Holden, whose union is currently in contract talks of their own with Boeing, in an April 22 letter. “No one should endure understaffed fire stations in a company esteemed for its leadership in aerospace. The dedicated IAFF Local I-66 members have earned the right to bring home a fair, family-wage living comparable to other local fire departments without waiting 20 years to reach max pay.”

IAFF Local I-66 members have also received letters of support from their peers at IAFF Local 726 representing Pierce County fire fighters, IAFF Local 864 representing Renton fire fighters and IAFF Local I-98 representing Tri-Med Professional EMTs.

“All eyes are on Boeing right now to see if they are serious about changing course after decades of profit-driven cost cutting,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “It’s absolutely astounding that Boeing management thinks now is a good time to deny their own fire fighters wages comparable to nearby peers or to sufficiently staff their departments. Washington’s union movement calls on the company to agree to a fair contract with IAFF Local I-66 immediately.”

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