Boeing Dispute Still Before Mediators

September 5, 2002 ( - Boeing Co.'s mechanics union will keep talking with a team of federal mediators in an attempt to avoid a strike until it "tells us to go home," the union's lead negotiator says.

Negotiators for the International Association of Machinists, which represents 25,000 Boeing workers in Washington state, Wichita, Kansas, and Portland, Oregon were to resume discussions at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, according to an Associated Press report.

“The machinists union is here to negotiate,” union chief negotiator Dick Schneider told the AP. “We’re here to represent our members the very best that we can. We’re here to improve a substandard offer.”

Boeing officials declared Wednesday, “We are not looking for a strike.” Boeing’s lead negotiator, Jerry Calhoun, spoke after a five-hour session with the mediators.

The giant aviation company’s contract with the union expired Monday.

Coming to Washington

A strike date has not been set, though union members had begun voting to authorize one when federal mediators, fearing a walkout would hurt the already sluggish economy, urged both sides to come to Washington. The union members’ ballots were sealed.

Boeing officials met voluntarily Wednesday with the mediators, but committed only to explaining the contract proposal, not to reopening talks after three months of negotiations, the AP report said.

Chicago-based Boeing has laid off 24,900 of the 30,000 workers it said it would cut after last year’s terrorist attacks. The union is contesting outsourcing of work to overseas vendors.

New orders for commercial airliners have dropped this year by about 60% from last year, Boeing spokeswoman Amanda Landers told the AP. Aircraft deliveries also are significantly down from last year.