Boeing firefighters hit picket lines as WA strike deadline looms

RENTON, Wash. - Members of the International Association of Firefighters Local I-66, representing firefighters at Boeing, took to the picket lines in Renton and Everett on Monday after overwhelmingly rejecting two prior contract proposals.

With more than 80% of the union voting against the previous offers, concerns over pay, career advancement and safety standards remain at the forefront of discussions.

<div>Members of International Association of Firefighters Local I-66, with support from other unionized firefighters from across Washington state, as well as unionized Boeing workers, took to the picket lines on April 29, 2024, in Renton, Wash.</div> <strong>(AJ Janavel)</strong>
Members of International Association of Firefighters Local I-66, with support from other unionized firefighters from across Washington state, as well as unionized Boeing workers, took to the picket lines on April 29, 2024, in Renton, Wash.
(AJ Janavel)

The primary sticking points leading to the rejection of Boeing's previous offers have been outlined by union officials:

  • Disparities in Pay: Firefighters expressed dissatisfaction with pay offers that fell significantly below those of other Seattle-area fire departments. The proposed compensation was reportedly 20% lower than the industry standard, raising concerns about fairness and competitiveness in the local labor market.

  • Lengthy Career Progression: Another contentious issue revolves around Boeing's proposed career advancement plan. The company's proposal suggests a trajectory where it would take firefighters 19 years to reach the top end of their pay scale. In contrast, Seattle firefighters top out in a fraction of that time, achieving the highest pay grade in 3.5 years. The prolonged timeline put forth by Boeing has been met with skepticism and resistance from union members seeking more expedited paths to career advancement and financial stability.

  • Safety Concerns: Beyond compensation and career progression, union members have raised alarms regarding staffing levels at Boeing's fire stations. Allegations suggest that staffing falls significantly below international safety standards, posing potential risks to both firefighters and the broader Boeing community. Addressing these concerns is paramount for ensuring the well-being and effectiveness of firefighting operations within the company.

The decision to picket and return to the bargaining table reflects the determination of Local I-66 firefighters to secure a fair and equitable contract that addresses their core concerns.

Local I-66 represents more than 120 firefighters, who staff Boeing fire stations in Auburn, Everett, Renton, Seattle and Moses Lake. These specialized Boeing firefighters are on hand every time a Boeing-built aircraft is fueled or takes off on a test or delivery flight, and serve as first responders to accidents or medical emergencies at Boeing facilities.

Boeing, a major aerospace corporation and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, plays a pivotal role in the Seattle area's economy and community. As such, the outcome of these negotiations holds implications not only for the welfare of its employees but also for the broader dynamics of labor relations within the region.

Boeing Firefighter Tony Coleman told FOX 13 Seattle that he and other Boeing firefighters in the state respond to about 200 calls a month for Boeing and the community.

"When we are called by our outside brothers and sisters we respond," Coleman said.

As dozens of Boeing firefighters demand attention to what they say is unfair wages, they also worry what will happen if there is a strike or replacements are brought in to fill their spots.

"Just to bring someone in and say we have to catch someone up real fast … it’s not going to fly, said Coleman. "What does that mean for the 60k people you keep safe for the rest of the year? That means they are at risk. Don’t have a heart attack at Boeing, don’t have an EMS emergency at Boeing."

In an emailed statement to FOX 13 Seattle, Boeing said, "We are disappointed the union rejected our final offer that would increase our firefighters’ pay while continuing to provide outstanding healthcare coverage and one of the best 401(k) plans in the nation. Today we are engaged in good faith negotiations with the union in the hopes that a deal can still be reached. In the event a deal isn’t reached, we have a robust contingency plan which will ensure uninterrupted firefighting support at our Puget Sound sites and allow us to safely continue all business operations as normal."

Coleman says Boeing wants to pay its people cheap, which he recognizes is a hard pill to swallow, especially for those with young families at home.

"A window falls off a plane, or a door falls off a plane, and an executive gets a big bonus payout, Coleman said. "Our firefighters are asking for basic, simple things … things that will help keep their lights on, pay their mortgage feed their kids."

Boeing provided an updated statement after this story aired on television:

"Our contract offer includes a highly competitive market-based compensation package that is aligned with industrial fire departments. The union repeatedly attempts to apply municipal fire department standards to Boeing’s industrial fire department despite the statement of work being completely different. Our firefighter staffing levels are actually higher than the safety standards applicable to industrial fire departments. The union is using standards that do not apply to this bargaining unit."

As negotiations unfold, FOX 13 Seattle will be closely monitoring developments; check back for updates.


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