Boeing Company — one of the largest global aircraft manufacturers in the world — has told its union that it will likely deny “pension survivor benefits to same-sex married couples” in Washington State, even after voters approved marriage equality in November, The Stranger reports.
Union representative Ray Goforth told The Stranger that Boeing during contract negotiations, the company maintained that pension benefits are governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and that it does not plan to voluntarily offer benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees. The Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples, even if states allow for such unions:
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.
Since Slog published its report, Boeing issued a statement promising to reassess the impact of Washington State’s marriage equality referendum on company policy. “Boeing is taking a closer look at how R-74 might impact company policies once it takes effect in December,” the statement said. “Nothing is ever final in negotiations until they’re over,” a company spokesperson told the Slog. “What we said today is that [these pension benefits] are not currently addressed in the contract.”
A growing number of companies are offering equal benefits for equal work, regardless of sexual orientation and recognizing that “treating all workers equally makes good business sense.” “Research consistently shows that unfair and discriminatory work environments cripple an employer’s ability to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. These negative environments also stifle job performance and productivity.”