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Boeing Unions Move To End Strike

A tentative agreement was reached Friday to end a 38-day strike by thousands of Boeing Co. engineers and technical workers, the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said.

Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace will vote on the pact Sunday, FMCS director C. Richard Barnes said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

He said he was optimistic about ratification.

"The parties, both parties, worked extremely hard," Barnes said. "There seemed to be a genuine level of satisfaction among both parties."

The union represents about 22,350 Boeing employees, mostly in Washington state, but also in Kansas, California, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Utah. Only about 13,000 are dues-paying members.

The settlement was announced about 3 a.m. Negotiators for Boeing and SPEEA were returning to Seattle and could not immediately be reached for comment, Barnes said.

"We are very pleased that the longest and largest white-collar labor dispute in the aerospace industry has been settled," Barnes said in a statement. "I want to commend the leadership of the company and union for their hard work and their commitment to reaching this agreement.

The latest round of talks began Thursday morning in Washington and included for the first time AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and James B. Dagnon, Boeing's senior vice president for personnel.

Their presence at the table "was a tremendously important factor," Barnes said.

The union went on strike Feb. 9, seeking more guaranteed pay raises and bonuses like those received by production workers represented by the Machinists, Boeing's largest union. Boeing had insisted on mostly selective pay increases, reductions in life insurance benefits and some changes in health insurance.

The labor fight was particularly rancorous. Negotiations broke down Feb. 27 despite the efforts of Barnes, and earlier this month, Boeing declared an impasse, which the union disputed.

Earlier this week, a top Boeing executive accused striking engineers of trying to destroy the company's reputation by telling airlines and the government that new aircraft are unsafe.

Alan Mulally, president of the commercial airplanes unit, said in a letter dated Monday "a few" employees were maligning the company.

Mulally also said in the letter mailed to 91,000 employees in the commercial airplanes division that universities were being told that Boeing "is a terrible place to work."

Charles Bofferding, executive director of the union, said union members have not characterized Boeing's planes as unsafe, mostly because so few of them have been delivered since the strike began.

Boeing's value has reportedly fallen by about $5.3 billion since the walkout began and that strikers have lost more than $125 million in wages, based on a company estimate of $3.4 million a day.