‘It’s a hot mess right now’: Is the Boeing firefighter lockout putting Everett employees at risk?

EVERETT, Wash. — The Boeing firefighters lockout has concluded its fifth day and there’s still is no deal. Firefighters stood outside the Everett factory Wednesday. Picketing and alongside them were some other Boeing employees, like Billi Starzman, a hazmat technician.

“It’s a hot mess right now,” Starzman said. “There’s five people to deal with it all right now.”

Boeing firefighters have been on the picket lines since May 4, when the company announced the lockout. Tony Coleman, a firefighter, said it means a lot to see other Boeing employees standing with them.

“It almost gives you like chills because when you see thousands of people, or even a hundred people walk out of the factory and say, ‘Hey, we got your back, we’re supporting you,’” Coleman said.

Starzman said the five people that are trying to fill in the gaps for the locked-out firefighters are doing their best, but it’s not enough.

“Its scary, people are scared, we’re not being told the truth, we’re being told there’s a robust contingency plan and that service won’t be disrupted, service is totally disrupted,” she said.

Starzman said she’s had to handle three spills on her own when she normally would have firefighter support.

“You need their expertise, you need the equipment that’s on their rigs that now can’t roll because there’s nobody to roll their rigs to the scene,” she said.

She also pointed out that response times are higher than normal.

“I got chemicals in my eyes in December, these guys were here within a minute to help me, if they hadn’t of been in and I would have had to wait, who knows what would have happened,” she said.

Boeing sent a statement to KIRO 7 saying:

“The safety of our employees is our top priority. We have highly qualified firefighters stationed at every site on every shift providing the same level of support as always, including Boeing firefighters from across the company working alongside our local managers.

“They have successfully responded to all calls since we activated our contingency plan. The claims about our response to the spills in Everett are categorically false. Our fire crews responded to all three spills within our standard 4-minute response time when they were called. We are appropriately staffed to support all needs there and across our sites.”

The sticking points in the negotiations remain centered around wage increases and the ability to earn top scale faster.

“Boeing has traditionally paid us for 20 hours of the 24 hours and giving us a $50 stipend to be there for four hours, so that 21% is saying we’re going to pay you for all 24 hours, that’s the money they owe us,” Coleman said.

Boeing is also in the middle of negotiations with its machinists union. Their contract expires in September.

“These guys do more than wait for a fire, they do so much more than that and without them we couldn’t function and it’s going to collapse here soon I’m sure,” Starzman said.

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