Boeing’s engineering union announced Friday that after a 14-year dispute with the company it has won an arbitration award of $47 million for 484 current and former Boeing employees in Southern California.

The dispute began in 2000, when Boeing stopped recognizing the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) as representing its workforce at Edwards Air Force Base or at its facility in Palmdale.

A union objection was upheld in U.S. District Court and by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), with Boeing appealing each step.

In January, an arbitrator issued a final ruling that Boeing had wrongly denied its workers the wages and benefits guaranteed by the SPEEA contracts.

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The ruling requires Boeing to “make whole” the employees for everything they should have received under the contracts and to add 10 percent interest.

Though SPEEA represents less than 90 people at the two sites today, any current or retired employees who worked there after 2000 will share in the award.

A total of 251 current employees will share $28 million in back pay and benefits. Another 233 Boeing retirees will share $19 million in back pay and benefits and additional pension.

SPEEA said many of the current employees have received salary increases of up to $33,000 annually.

And most of the 484 employees will receive lump-sum payments, from a few dollars to in excess of $400,000, depending on how long they worked at one of the sites.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company is disappointed, but is “working with SPEEA to make whole the employees by the May 21 deadline.”

C-17 contract offer rejected by UAW

The aerospace union local that represents an estimated 1,000 workers on Boeing’s dying C-17 cargo-jet program in Long Beach, Calif., has rejected a proposed contract because of cuts to pension and medical benefits, union officials announced.

The company’s offer didn’t even make it to members for a vote.

“The proposal we received from the company is economically inferior and legally detrimental to this membership,” wrote bargaining-committee officials for the United Auto Workers Local 148. “As a result, we have rejected the company’s proposal.”

The union said the offer shortchanged workers in their final six months of work — when they’d be without a contract, as it now stands.

“It’s all in the company’s court right now. We are willing to go back to the table and work something out,” UAW Local 148 President Stan Klemchuk said.

A strike is not immediately in the picture because a five-year contract remains in place until February. The C-17 program ends in August 2015, so a labor disruption in the six months after the current contract ends in February is speculative.

Boeing spokeswoman Tiffany Pitts stood by previous statements indicating that Boeing won’t budge in the talks.

Boeing offered UAW’s bargaining committee a “best and final” offer on April 11 that would have shorted aging aerospace workers at the factory in Long Beach on their pension and medical benefits as they approach the twin marks of 30 years of service and age 55.

Hitting the twin marks gives members full pension payouts and medical benefits, according to Klemchuk. The union is concerned, however, that about 280 of its members are less than a year short of 30 years of service and could get their pensions cut by as much as 42 percent and greatly reduced medical benefits, had the contract been approved.

The Orange County Register