Boeing Union Rejects Contract, Strike Authorization

Members of the engineering union SPEEA at Boeing's military aircraft plant in Kansas voted Thursday to reject a contract offer, but did not authorize a strike.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Union members at Boeing Co.'s military aircraft plant in Kansas voted Thursday to reject a contract offer, but did not authorize a strike.

Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace voted 180-84 to reject the contract offer. But they also voted 140-118, with six abstentions, against a strike.

The vote included a provision that would allow the negotiating team to accept the company's offer -- and that is probably what will happen, said Bob Brewer, SPEEA's Midwest director.

"They pushed it this far and now what they have is a lot of unhappy engineers at the company," Brewer said.

Boeing issued a statement saying the contract will continue to be its "best and final" offer, but that the company was willing to discuss and clarify its provisions.

The company said it was disappointed union members rejected the contract.

"However, we are pleased our employees recognize the importance of supporting our customers during this very challenging time, and chose not to authorize a strike," Boeing said.

Before the vote, union leaders had urged members to reject the three-year contract offer and authorize a strike against Boeing.

Union members had overwhelmingly rejected the same contract last month. Negotiations broke down last week between Chicago-based Boeing and the union, which represents 700 engineers at Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems plant in Wichita.

The economy played a role in the results, Brewer said.

"Right now it is very hard for them to pull the trigger on a strike," he said.

The rejection comes amid mounting job losses at Wichita's major aircraft manufacturers, including 800 layoffs announced last year at the Boeing's Wichita plant. Bombardier Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft Co. and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. have laid off thousands of workers in Wichita, citing canceled aircraft orders.

Chicago-based Boeing has announced a companywide total of 10,000 layoffs amid weaker air traffic and pressure on military budgets.

Boeing machinists went on a two-month strike in September, paralyzing the company's commercial aircraft factories. The strike ended with a new contract in early November.

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