Today the Boeing Company told union negotiators that it intends to deny pension survivor benefits to same-sex married couples, even though Washington State voters decisively approved a marriage equality law earlier this month.
Representing 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, Ray Goforth is executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. He was sitting at the negotiation table today—as part of ongoing talks over retirement benefits—and says the company’s position “says to employees that they can be discriminated against based on who they are.”
Goforth explains that his union has long sought equal pension benefits for same-sex domestic partners, to no avail. But since voters approved same sex marriage—establishing parity with married straight couples—Goforth re-framed the proposal to apply to his union’s gay Boeing employees who wed. “Their answer was that they had no intention of granting pension survivor benefits to legally married same-sex couples because they didn’t have to,” Goforth explains. Boeing representatives told him that pensions are governed by federal law, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, thereby trumping the state law on the matter.
“We were profoundly disappointed to see that they would use a loophole to engage in institutionalized discrimination,” Goforth says.
Now that they’ve seriously ticked people off, Boeing is claiming that nothing is final.
Pretty weasel-y thing for a company to do, hide behind the “Defense of Marriage Act” in order to deny some of its married employees the same benefits as other married employees.
The good news is that these kind of bigoted actions will likely help prove the harm that DOMA, and marriage inequality more generally, is causing in court.