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US Middle-class-war, Boeing Action May Be Largest White Collar Strike Ever In US

From DAMN <damn@tao.ca>
Date Mon, 14 Feb 2000 10:17:33 -0500


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The effects of the first full-fledged strike at Boeing Co. were diverse -
federal crash investigators calling off a flight, applause in the hallways
at company plants, a UPS driver refusing to cross a picket line. 

More than 17,000 engineers and technical workers walked off the job in one
of the biggest white-collar strikes in U.S. history. No end to the labor
dispute was in sight early today. Boeing's stock fell $2 a share, or 5
percent, to $38.81 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, production at the world's largest airplane maker continued
without interruption. Assembly employees belong to a separate union and have
a clause in their contract requiring them to work regardless of what other
Boeing employees do.

This is the first large strike in the union's 56-year history, and some
members had questioned whether the white-collar workers were willing to take
on the company. The union's only previous strike was a one-day walkout in 1992.

Company Measuring Impact

"I wanted to see how much strength would be shown. I wanted to see how many
members would participate in support of this," said union member Mike
Montgomery. "I wasn't quite sure of the level we'd get. So far, it looks
pretty strong."

Boeing previously said any strike would not affect the production of
aircraft. Peter B. Conte, a Boeing spokesman, said today the company was
still measuring the effects of the walkout.

Members of the union cheered when they were told a Teamster-driven truck
from United Parcel Service honored the picket line Wednesday.

Strikers reported that assembly employees "stopped work, went to the
hallways and applauded SPEEA members as they walked off the job," union
spokesman Bill Dugovich said.

He said the strike drew virtually 100 percent participation from employees
who approve the spare parts that are sent to airlines around the world and
those who must sign off on planes before deliveries are made.

The union has sought more guaranteed pay raises and bonuses similar to those
received by the 46,000-member Machinists union. Boeing has insisted on
mostly selective pay increases, reductions in life insurance benefits and
some changes in health insurance.

In negotiations last year, the Machinists won annual raises of 4 percent, 4
percent and 3 percent in a three-year contract, plus a 10 percent signing bonus.

White-collar employees at Boeing worldwide average about $50,000 a year. The
AFL-CIO-affiliated union, which represents Boeing's 22,600 professional and
technical workers, counts 63 percent of them as dues-paying members. 
Author: Michael J. Martinez



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