The Boeing Fire Fighters Local I-66 St. Louis, Missouri, chapter has won a new contract after facing threats of a lockout from one of the largest corporations in the world. The new 4-year contract includes up to 34 percent increase in wages over the life of the agreement, and members will now be paid for every hour of their 24-hour shifts.
IAFF 7th District Vice President Ricky Walsh hailed the deal as “a job well done by all involved.” A unified effort from the IAFF, 7th District leadership, the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters (MSCFF), and several labor groups delivered the new contract in the face of repeated threats by Boeing.
“Congratulations to Boeing Local I-66 for persevering through this tough battle and negotiating a solid contract,” Walsh said. “This union showed that if you stay strong and unified, big companies like Boeing don’t hold all the power. Thanks go to General President Kelly, Secretary-Treasurer Líma, and our entire Executive Board, who voted to support a strike if necessary.”
Local I-66 represents the interests of Boeing facility fire fighters, inspectors, and lieutenants in St. Louis, Lake City, Missouri, and Washington State. Boeing Company is valued at more than $140 billion.
“We are pleased to have our voices heard and the resulting favorable contract,” Local I-66 President Casey Yeager said. “The company now knows that we will do what it takes to ensure our members get fair wages, benefits, and, above all, fair treatment. I appreciate General President Kelly and the IAFF’s commitment to ensuring us whatever resources we needed to be successful.”
District Vice President Walsh and Boeing Local I-66 President Yeager with other members of the negotiations team
St. Louis’ I-66 members had been woefully underpaid for much of the previous CBA, which did not account for inflation. This made wages one of the priority issues during negotiations.
The local was also pushing to be paid for their full 24-hour shifts. Like some other private sector employers, Boeing had historically refused to pay its fire fighters for shift hours when they may be sleeping. This newly negotiated contract, which includes payment for full shift hours, will result in an average pay increase of 22 percent.
Boeing dug in during talks, initially refusing to budge on wages or pay for the full 24 hours. The company sent a lockout letter to Local I-66, in effect, a take-it-or-leave-it demand tied to its last offer.
Walsh, who had been present over the final days of negotiations, reached out to General President Edward Kelly to help rally the support of the trade unions and labor councils.
“This union doesn’t back down from a fight, even if it’s against a big company like Boeing,” Kelly said. “The IAFF, along with the rest of labor, was prepared to utilize the full weight of its resources to stand by our brothers and sisters in St. Louis.”
The labor groups stood in solidarity behind the I-66 fire fighters, sending letters to Boeing notifying the company of their stances.
Since a lockout would have essentially forced the union members to go on strike, IAFF 7th District, MSCFF, and I-66 leaders also launched a fund to help members with bills if they were locked out. The goal was to raise $80,000. They were already halfway there when Boeing backed off its threats.
With one day to go before the lockout was to take effect, Boeing agreed to a four-year contract with raises and pay for the full 24-hour shift.
The victory was bittersweet for the Local I-66 team because J.T. Boothman, a member who wrote most of the proposals while receiving treatment for cancer, died during negotiations.
Yeager, the Local I-66 President, said the union “could not have successfully negotiated this contract without him.”
Boothman, who dedicated his life to service as a paramedic and fire fighter, was 57.