Boeing exec: Striking workers harming company's reputation

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2000

SEATTLE -- A top Boeing Co. executive this week called on striking engineers to stop ''maliciously attacking our company and deliberately trying to destroy our reputation'' by writing letters to airlines, government officials and colleges.

In the letter dated March 13, Alan Mulally, president of the commercial airplanes unit, said there were ''a few'' employees who were maligning the company, telling airline customers, Congress, and the Federal Aviation Administration that new Boeing planes are now unsafe.

Mulally also said in his letter, mailed to all 91,000 employees in the commercial airplanes division, that colleges and universities are being told that Boeing ''is a terrible place to work.''

''You and I know that these statements are not true,'' Mulally wrote. ''They couldn't be true because we all have worked closely together with the highest integrity to design and build the most reliable airplanes in the world.''

Charles Bofferding, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, said the union itself has not been in contact with airlines, and that any letters to those Boeing customers were likely the actions of individuals not supported by the union.

However, Bofferding and union members have been meeting with members of Congress and FAA officials to talk about safety issues, though he said they have not been saying that Boeing's planes are unsafe, mostly because so few of them have been delivered since the strike.

''They're not delivering planes because the SPEEA workers who ensure those planes are safe are not on the job,'' Bofferding said. ''If Boeing were to start delivering a lot of planes, we would then have cause to speak out more forcefully.''

SPEEA said that there are more than 17,000 engineers and technical workers still on strike, mostly in the Puget Sound area, though recent Boeing estimates put that number at 15,000, with some 1,200 people having returned to work since the strike began Feb. 9.

Deliveries of new aircraft were down sharply in February, according to Boeing's own records.

Bofferding also said that many union members were talking with their alma maters about working conditions at Boeing, with the support of the union.

''We have something on our Web site about colleges,'' Bofferding said, ''but all we are saying is that our members should feel free to reach out and talk about their feelings about working for Boeing.''

SPEEA members have turned down three contract offers by Boeing, saying that the offers did not include guaranteed bonuses and required additional worker contributions to health insurance, two main issues that led to the strike..

Mulally's letter did not specifically mention SPEEA, but expressed the hope that the company could move forward ''with our integrity intact'' once the strike ended.

Boeing officials, who provided Mulally's letter to the press via e-mail, were not immediately available for additional comment.

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