300 union workers join Boeing firefighter picket lines in Seattle

SEATTLE — Around 300 union workers across Washington joined Boeing firefighters on the picket line in Seattle as workers urged the global aerospace company to provide better working conditions and pay.


Boeing firefighters have been on the picket lines across Puget Sound since May 4 when the company announced its lockout.

The first responders have been picketing in six different locations, including Renton, Seattle, Auburn, Everett, and Frederickson.

Representatives from more than 400 state and local unions took turns to join the efforts in Seattle near the intersection of East Marginal Way South and 14th Avenue South Saturday afternoon, leaders said.

As dozens lined the street outside of Boeing, hundreds of others were preparing at a nearby site.

“This is really about safety. It’s inconceivable to me and to a lot of people in the labor movement that Boeing would choose to lockout their firefighters at a time where the whole world is watching their failure to provide safety in the workplace,” said April Sims, president of the Washington State Labor Council.

Sims said they wanted to stand in solidarity with Boeing firefighters as they urge the global company to negotiate “fairly with their firefighters.”

“This fight is about not just about the firefighters who are doing the work at Boeing today, but future firefighters who want to join this profession. This is about pay equity, dignity, and respect. And Boeing’s decision to lockout their firefighters puts all of their employees and rest of the workers at their plants at risk,” Sims said.

“It is the cornerstone of the work that we do to make sure when folks go to work, they can work in a safe environment and they can get home to their families that they love and care about,” Sims added.


KIRO 7 News spoke with firefighters on the picket line in Seattle about their efforts.

“Our compensation level is far low than what they’re supposed to be,” Casey Yeager, president of Boeing Fire Fighters Local I-66 said.

Yeager said his team is understaffed and many workers are being stretched thin with the current workload, which is potentially putting thousands of Boeing employees in danger.

“That can mean the difference between life and death,” he said. “Running more with less has been something Boeing has used not for our organization, but everyone at Boeing.  And there is a burnout with the firefighters training new firefighters every year, the revolving door, it gets exhausting.”

If Boeing calls on local firefighters, who are funded by the public, for help during emergencies, Yeager said it could put many people in danger, including families near Boeing plants.

“It can be dangerous for the outside jurisdiction as well because if we don’t have enough people, we have to rely on our outside jurisdiction,” he said.

John Riggsby, a Lt. Boeing firefighter, said Boeing firefighters are specifically trained to handle all types of emergencies, involving Boeing’s planes, chemicals, and its massive buildings.

“Our job function here is a lot more specialized,” he said. “A response from the county could take up to 30, 40 minutes to assemble a hazmat response team, where here, we have techs on site, and our responses can be within five minutes for that,” he said.

“Very well could be life and death. It could be loss of property and assets for the Boeing company as well. So having that quick response we have, and the training we have, greatly reduces that time for mitigation,” he added.

Boeing firefighters said they will continue to rally 24 hours a day until a fair contract is reached.


KIRO 7 News reached out to Boeing to get its response.

A spokesperson said the company has been bargaining with the union since mid-February, adding it has presented the union with “highly competitive contract offers that featured pay increases, outstanding healthcare coverage and one of the best 401(k) plans in the nation.”

Officials also said their contract offer aligns with industrial fire departments.

The spokesperson shared the following statement:

“We once again returned to mediation on May 15 in the hopes of ending the lockout. After the union finally presented a proposal, our Boeing team responded with a counteroffer. Continuing their pattern of bad faith bargaining, the union refused to put our offer to a membership vote or even provide a counteroffer. While our team is ready to meet at any time, for reasons unknown to us, the union informed us they are not available to meet again until May 20. We remain committed to reaching a deal and urge the union to come back and respond in good faith with a counterproposal or allow our employees to vote on our offer.”

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