Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co., which had resisted granting equal survivor pension benefits to same-sex spouses despite Washington State’s new marriage equality law, has now agreed to do so, reports Seattle newspaper The Stranger.
Executives at Boeing, which maintains extensive operations in Washington despite moving its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago several years ago, had told union negotiators in November that because pensions are governed by federal law, it would not offer surviving same-sex spouses the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses. They said federal law, which does not recognize same-sex marriages, would override Washington’s marriage equality law, passed by the legislature last year and affirmed by voters in November.
Now, as contract negotiations continue with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, 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.”
“We are satisfied that this language protects same-sex spouses,” Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA’s IFPTE Local 2001, told The Stranger. The local represents 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of them in Washington. After Boeing initially denied the benefits, an online petition urging the company to grant them received 79,000 signatures.
Despite the agreement on survivor benefits, Boeing and the union remain far apart on many other issues, the paper notes.