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Boeing: Please extend pension survivor benefits to LGBT employees

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On November 6, 2012, the voters of Washington State passed Referendum 74 to approve marriage equality in Washington. With this law upheld by the people, Washington State stands to support and protect all families.

I am an employee of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, a division of The Boeing Company, based in Seattle, Washington. The Boeing Company is a Chicago, Illinois based aerospace company and one of the nation's top defense contractors.

At Boeing, one of the employee retirement benefits is a defined benefit pension plan, where survivor benefits would allow continuation of pension payments to the employee's spouse, should the employee die. Survivor benefits were put in place to protect families against the hardships caused by the loss of their loved ones.

Currently today, Boeing only provides survivor benefits to employees of different-sex married couples, excluding employees of same-sex married couples and their families from the protection and peace of mind that comes with survivor benefits.

During contract negotiations on November 21, 2012, between the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)* and Boeing, the Boeing Negotiation Team was clear that Boeing would continue to deny survivor benefits to employees of same-sex married couples under its defined benefit pension plan, even after Referendum 74 approved marriage equality.

Boeing is not required to extend survivor benefits to same-sex married couples because pensions are governed by federal law, which currently does not recognize same-sex marriage. But as a Boeing employee, I believe Boeing should include all employees.

At the federal level, the Obama administration and eight federal courts, including the First and Second Circuit Court of Appeals, has found Section 3: Definition of Marriage of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. Earlier this year, President Obama affirmed his support for marriage equality. While not required, corporate social equality should be the driving force for Boeing to make the right decision.

Boeing states on its website that Diversity and Inclusion are part of Boeing's values at the highest level

Now is the time for Boeing to continue to drive inclusion and mutual respect into every corner of this enterprise, by showing an equal commitment to its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) workforce as said in the Boeing Diversity Video: We are Diversity At Boeing.

I strongly urge The Boeing Company to honor the people of Washington State by extending survivor benefits to employees of same-sex married couples at Contract Negotiations and show equality for all Boeing employees.

*SPEEA, IFPTE Local 2001 represents 23,000 Professional Engineers and Technical Workers, with most working at Boeing's Puget Sound-region facilities.

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