News (USA)

Boeing changes course on survivor benefits for same-sex spouses

CHICAGO — The aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing said Friday that it has altered its policies on providing survivor pension benefits to same-sex couples during negotiations with union representatives this week.

During extensive contract negotiations last November, Boeing executives told the union negotiators that since pensions are governed by federal law, which does not recognize same-sex marriages under the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it was the company’s stance that even with passage Washington state’s marriage equality law, the federal law would override the state statue.

On Friday, a union spokesperson acknowledged that in the latest round of contract negotiations between the Professional Engineering Employees in the Aerospace division and Boeing executives produced an agreement 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,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA’s IFPTE Local 2001.

The local represents 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of whom are employed in Boeing plants in Washington State.

Last fall after the aircraft manufacturer initially denied the benefits, an online petition at urging the company to change its position, received over 79,000 signatures.

Boeing, based in Chicago, is one of the largest global aircraft manufacturers in the world, and employs more than 82,000 workers in Washington state, and more than 174,000 worldwide.

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