Product Design Engineering

Boeing discriminating against older engineers?

Last week, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 2001 charged Boeing with age discrimination. The union acts for SPEEA-represented engineers and filed third-party charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

According to the SPEEA website, “evidence is overwhelming that Boeing hatched and implemented a scheme to engage in age discrimination,” says Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “The scheme involved secret manipulation of the retention ranking factors used to determine layoff order for employees. This illegal manipulation doubled, tripled, and quadrupled layoff vulnerability for older employees compared to previous years. The company then announced a series of work movements and reorganizations to implement the manipulated layoff order.”

Read the whole Charge of Discrimination at the SPEEA website.

It’s projected that Boeing will layoff several thousand engineers by 2016.

Of course, Boeing and unions have long been at it: Here's a blog entry from my esteemed colleague in 2011 detailing objections to Boeing's move to South Carolina production as a way to avoid union strikes in Washington state. Earlier this year, that conflict ended when the International Association of Machinists District 751 voted by a slim margin to approve a contract through 2024 that replaces a pension plan for 33,000 machinists with a 401(k)-based plan.

Here’s the rub: In the current tussle, Boeing says that its move to "diversify the engineering workforce" merely reflects changes in its business. In contrast, the union claims that Boeing is dismantling and disbursing their experienced commercial-engineering workforce for what seem to be “laughably superficial” business reasons … but the real reason it’s moving work to Russia, India, and domestic ‘centers of excellence’ — mostly non-union locations in Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina — is for the “wholesale purge of Boeing’s older workforce.”

But — an obvious observation here — it’s exactly those business objectives (especially to drive profit) that are more easily met with the purging of more-expensive (but non-executive) staff.

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