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Boeing Says It Will Deny Equal Pension Benefits to Gay Married Couples in Washington State

The Boeing Corporation has told union negotiators that it will deny pension survivor benefits to same-sex married couples despite passage of a marriage equality law there, The Stranger reports:

BoeingRay Goforth [executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001] 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.

Boeing issued a statement to its employees late yesterday saying the company "is taking a closer look at how R-74 might impact company policies once it takes effect in December" but Goforth insists that the company was "unequivocal" in its statement to union negotiators that it intends to withhold the benefits.

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  1. And in the blink of an eye, another lawsuit to strike down DOMA was born. I wonder which legal group will get this one and whether it will even get off the ground before the Supreme Court considers one of the other 6 high-profile DOMA challenges.

    Posted by: Jere | Nov 22, 2012 2:09:02 PM

  2. I'm not sure that Boeing can get away with it even under existing law. The prevailing federal law is ERISA which specifies that plan documents control who is entitled to get a benefit and who is not. If the plan documents say that married people get benefits, then married people get benefits. "Married" is typically defined by state law. Looks to me like they are out of luck.

    Posted by: Mercutio | Nov 22, 2012 2:37:21 PM

  3. Tes, another reason why the "States' rights" position will ultimately fail.

    Many of the benefits issuing from the status of marriage are FEDERAL benefits, or are reflected in Federal law (i.e. taxes). DOMA will not stand.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Nov 22, 2012 2:45:07 PM

  4. Let's not jump the gun. They're not going to put all their cards on the table before contract negotiations even start. I normally don't make predictions (because of how wrong I usually end up being), but in this case I'm pretty confident: the equal benefits will be there in the final contract. Anything else would be a public relations disaster for Boeing.

    All of this is just union/management chess playing.

    Posted by: Booker | Nov 22, 2012 2:45:21 PM

  5. Whether ERISA falls under DOMA is an open question I think. There are other companies that make the same claim. See Cozen O'Connor v Tobits for example, which is now on hold until the Supreme Court decide's DOMA fate. In that case the surviving spouse is arguing that the company didn't specify that it was using DOMA's restrictive definition.

    Posted by: Steve | Nov 22, 2012 2:50:46 PM

  6. Well, I am sure not buying my next air/spacecraft from Boeing!

    Posted by: Damien | Nov 22, 2012 2:51:55 PM

  7. Sorry, Boeing, but federal law will recognize same-sex marriages by this time next year.

    Posted by: 24play | Nov 22, 2012 2:53:10 PM

  8. DAMIEN - my immediate reaction as well! Their loss, huh?

    Posted by: Leroy Laflamme | Nov 22, 2012 3:19:11 PM

  9. DAMIEN - my immediate reaction as well! Their loss, huh?

    Posted by: Leroy Laflamme | Nov 22, 2012 3:19:12 PM

  10. Well, when I fly to Europe bi-annually Lufthansa flies the loveliest Airbuses. The staff is fabulously crisp and the Europeans follow the rules.

    Posted by: Ellipse Kirk | Nov 22, 2012 3:35:54 PM

  11. Time for Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, to put a moratorium on defense contracts with Boeing for discriminatory employment practices.

    Posted by: Fox | Nov 22, 2012 4:11:55 PM

  12. Pension survivor benefits? Those are extremely important! When someone works for Boeing they have a great career and deserve all the perks that come with it, JUST LIKE STRAIGHT PEOPLE. Ugh this is terrible, I hope people make a big deal of this.

    Posted by: NeverEclipsed81 | Nov 22, 2012 4:22:54 PM

  13. DOMA is bound to be overturned in the next few years.

    It seems like really bad PR for this company to fight this when they will lose this battle after either a Supreme Court decision or through the House...

    Posted by: phil | Nov 22, 2012 4:57:23 PM

  14. Sheesh... even Walmart recognizes same-sex marriages in states where they are legal, and I believe they recognize domestic partnerships as well.

    Posted by: Tessie Tura | Nov 22, 2012 5:33:12 PM

  15. Great strategic arguments about how to deal with this, and they're most important. What I think of is--how to destroy Boeing and its management.

    Posted by: Akrontru | Nov 22, 2012 5:36:37 PM

  16. Great strategic arguments about how to deal with this, and they're most important. What I think of is--how to destroy Boeing and its management.

    Posted by: Akrontru | Nov 22, 2012 5:36:39 PM

  17. "Destroy"? Oh please, don't go there - it's not worth killing people just because they said a stupid thing. In fact, it's completely uncivilized. Mind your tongue, this is not the Gaza Strip.

    Posted by: Russ | Nov 22, 2012 6:59:02 PM

  18. Oh, I love the smell of a good law suit. We can wait for DOMA to fall or be more proactive and get our lawyers on it. Which do we prefer?

    Posted by: PAUL B. | Nov 22, 2012 7:00:37 PM

  19. Something to keep in mind regarding this harsh, intractable position by Boeing. It has been one of the major manufacturers of aircraft and weapons for the Pentagon. This shrill defiant stand by Boeing against both law and justice does suggest that Obama would like to get very "strict" and even dictatorial in his 2nd term — a Grand Compromise in which, as usual, gays are thrown under the bus to please the strident Right. I find this news ominous.

    Posted by: Charles | Nov 22, 2012 7:47:25 PM

  20. My husband also works for one of the big aeronautical contractors, and while he can inherit my pension, I can't inherit his due to DOMA as well. We are married in California, but the headquarters are in Virginia and they cite DOMA has why they can't provide the benefit. Hopefully, by the end of next Summer, this issue will also be resolved at the US Supreme Court.

    Posted by: Keith | Nov 22, 2012 8:23:22 PM

  21. 14th Amendment, ever heard of it Boeing? Why do we persist in being marginalized as equal citizens under the Constitution. We should all file lawsuits in every state across the country and write copious letters to all of our representatives in both state and federal legislatures. ACTION = ACTION.

    Posted by: Scott | Nov 22, 2012 8:25:46 PM

  22. It's going to be a short case when Boeing is dragged to court over this. Does anyone think a judge is even going to let this go to a jury?

    Posted by: Garst | Nov 22, 2012 8:55:10 PM

  23. This is animus, pure and simple. Hundreds of private companies offer survivor pension benefits regardless of the local state law or federal law. When the employee selects the joint and survivor payout option for the pension, the payout is reduced by actuarial tables to reflect that that the payout will be longer as it will continue until both people die. The payout is statistically the same for a single person or for a couple. It costs the company no more or less.

    Posted by: Alex | Nov 22, 2012 8:57:23 PM

  24. We've been so proud of our hometown company. Until now. See you in court, assholes.

    Posted by: greg | Nov 22, 2012 10:16:25 PM

  25. At the risk of being a real wise guy (I'd use another term, but towleroad might censor it), did anyone notice that the picture of Boeing's new airplane looked like a giant sex toy (again, I'd use the normal name, but towleroad ...)

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 22, 2012 10:19:54 PM

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