Boeing and its older workers: The brewing confrontation

One Boeing union has complained about older workers ending up on the short end of layoffs. And more layoffs lie ahead.
One Boeing union has complained about older workers ending up on the short end of layoffs. And more layoffs lie ahead.

When the union representing Boeing technical workers and engineers filed age discrimination charges against the aerospace giant in July, the company called the action “a baseless complaint.”

“Diversifying our engineering workforce reflects changes in our business and is not related to the age of our employees,” Boeing said in an emailed statement.

That’s not how workers see it. During the implementation of 2,500 layoffs in the past year, a handful of whistleblowing managers alerted the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) of possible bias, according to Roy Goforth, executive director of the union. In addition to those layoffs, the company announced in April that it will be laying off another 1,000 people in the Puget Sound area by the end of 2015 as part of a shift of some engineering work to Southern California.

Age discrimination cases can be notoriously difficult to prove, experts say, and the experiences of former Boeing employees elsewhere in the country bear that out. Now, however, it seems likely that the aerospace company and its Puget Sound workers are headed toward a long legal brawl of their own. 

Managers have the difficult task of deciding whom to fire, so to make the process more objective, the company has developed various performance-ranking system to rate employees. Historically, these evaluation criteria insulated senior employees who had more skills and experience from layoffs. Goforth told Crosscut, however, that recent changes to Boeing’s ranking system have meant that “if you were in your 40s your chances of getting laid off were doubled” while employees in their 50s had triple the risk of getting fired, and those in their 60s had quadruple the risk. 

Crosscut archive image.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

default profile image

Marissa Luck

Marissa Luck is a Tacoma-based writer and editorial intern at Crosscut. She has previously reported on issues of activism, homelessness, and Olympia city news for Works in Progress and Olympia Power & Light. She graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2011, with a BA focused in political economy and international studies. Marissa can be reached on Twitter @marissaluck7 or at