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Originally published Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: SPEEA contract talks should focus on Boeing’s future

Economic stability depends on keeping Boeing aloft. Labor peace allows all involved to zero in on the technical problems at hand.

Seattle Times Editorial

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PUGET Sound — indeed, the entire state of Washington — has a direct stake in seeing that Boeing workers, management and the company do well.

Include Boeing’s customers and the flying public in the queue of interested parties.

That is why the approval of a new four-year contract by Boeing engineers is such good news, and the rejection of the contract by its technical professionals is so disappointing.

Boeing has a lot on its plate with the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner. Problems need to be solved and orders are waiting to be filled. The moment demands all of the attention, talents and skills of all members represented by the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Engineers approved the contract, over the advice of union leadership, with a 54-percent vote. That covered about 15,550 engineers.

Technical workers rejected the contract by almost 53 percent. Their number is about 7,400. That sets up a strike scenario among their ranks.

For the vast majority of people in the economy, the contract offer is almost a work of science fiction. Five percent pay increases each year, for the next four years?

Engineers will see tens of thousands of dollars in salary and incentive pay over the next four years.

Likewise, tech workers would have seen their pay climb over the same period under the offer they rejected. A primary point of contention was that new employees would be under a 401(k) pension plan, not the existing pension benefit.

Most American workers have not seen significant pay raises, if any, in a decade, and fewer and fewer have any pension coverage.

Boeing’s skilled workforce earns its pay and benefits, but that compensation is tied to selling a product customers want. Focus on maintaining that history of excellence and the rewards will follow.

Do not let a momentary scramble for modest gains compromise keeping a lucrative enterprise viable and competitive here in the Pacific Northwest.

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