By Chris Huqueriza
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. has agreed to provide equal survivor pension benefits to same-sex spouses after initial resistance following the passage of marriage equality in Washington State.
In November, Boeing executives had notified union negotiators of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) that the company would not offer the same benefits that apply to heterosexual marriages to surviving same-sex spouses. They said that pensions are governed by federal law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, and would therefore override Washington State’s marriage equality law.
Boeing still maintains extensive operations in Washington despite moving its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago several years ago.
Contract negotiations are still in progress between executives and SPEEA representatives. However, the company has agreed to the following language: “Recognizing Boeing’s commitment to equality without regard to sexual orientation, Boeing will extend pension survivor benefits to all spouses, as defined under either State or Federal law whichever defines the same sex person as a spouse.”
Executive Director of SPEEA’s International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers local chapter 2001, Ray Goforth said, “We are satisfied that this language protects same-sex spouses.”
The local chapter represents 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of whom reside in Washington. After the company initially denied the benefits, an online petition, which received over 79,000 signatures, urged Boeing to change course.