Weekly Wrap: If You Have to be Laid Off, It Helps If You Worked at Boeing

Nobody in their right mind wants to be laid off, especially now that unemployment benefits that were expanded due to the Great Recession are returning to normal.

But you might feel differently if you just got laid off from Boeing.

According to a story in the Seattle Times, a special federal program that was lined up by various unions representing aerospace workers will greatly cushion the blow of getting laid off for workers at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The special arrangement, the newspaper says, is for both union or non-union, production workers or engineers, who get laid off between April 2012 and June 2015.

It’s a sweet deal, and one that will probably make the blood boil in every unemployed American who wasn’t lucky enough to work at Boeing and has seen their unemployment run out.

Yes, 130 weeks of unemployment pay

The highlight of this deal for Boeing workers — and it was approved by the U.S. Department of Labor — is that “they will get unemployment pay for up to 2½ years, rather than the regular six months” if they lose their jobs. This exceeds the 99 weeks of unemployment compensation that some out of work employees received in the wake of layoffs during the Great Recession.

If that’s not enough, there’s more.

Unemployed Boeing Commercial Airplane workers will also get:

  • A tax credit for nearly three-quarters of their health-care premiums while unemployed;
  • Reimbursement for 90 percent of their costs if they have to travel for a job interview;
  • Reimbursement for 90 percent of their moving expenses if they are forced to relocate for a new job, and, “an additional lump-sum relocation allowance of up to $1,250;”
  • A grant of up to $25,000 if they go back to school to get a degree; and,
  • Up to $10,000 in government-provided supplemental pay (over a two-year period), for unemployed workers over age 50 if they are forced to take a lower paid job after leaving Boeing.

Why do Boeing workers get such a sweet deal?

If you have ever had to navigate the rip tides surrounding unemployment compensation, you know that this special deal for unemployed Boeing airplane workers is absolutely off-the-board incredible. No unemployed workers anywhere get benefits this generous, and it makes you wonder why Boeing’s unemployed are so special, doesn’t it?

Well, here’s why, as detailed in the Seattle Times:

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All these benefits flow because the Labor Department recently granted the IAM’s (International Association of Machinists union) petition for federal aid under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which is designed to assist U.S. workers who have lost their jobs as a result of overseas trade or outsourcing.

And after a parallel petition from the white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the government broadened the approval to include all Boeing Commercial Airplanes workers, even nonunion employees.

The Department of Labor explained the decision by saying the company’s job losses here can be attributed to outsourcing because Boeing has acquired aircraft parts from foreign countries, “which contributed importantly to worker group separations.”

Plus, they get more from Boeing!

And, if the special government-provided unemployment package wasn’t good enough, here’s more, from the Times story:

The substantial TAA benefits for the Boeing workforce are on top of extras that the unions had already negotiated with the company. Boeing agreed to pay an extra $700 in severance pay to laid-off IAM members who had been with the company less than a year.

And per the contract, any IAM member who has been with the company more than a year gets Boeing severance pay equal to a week of pay for every year of service, up to 26 weeks, plus full medical coverage for themselves and their dependents for up to six months.

The SPEEA contract provides the same severance-pay provision and up to three months of medical coverage.”

If you’re shocked and offended by this government-funded perk that goes to a select few unemployed Boeing employees, this online commentary/rant is probably for you.

And it  just goes to show you just how cozy the current administration is with organized labor, as if the flood of pro-union rulings by the NLRB wasn’t enough. But it makes me wonder: why Boeing and airplane workers? What is so special about them?

My guess is that this special Boeing deal will generate a lot of attention, because it simply is over-the-top generous for a tiny group of workers that the federal government has decided to reward in an incredibly generous way. Keep that in mind the next time you have to navigate YOUR state’s unemployment compensation system.

Why can’t the unemployed get hired?

Of course, there’s more than Boeing’s government funded unemployment package in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Why is it so hard for the unemployed to get hired? Wharton School Management Prof. Peter Cappelli speaks with great conviction about unemployment and why those out of work can’t seem to find new jobs, and as someone who has heard him talk on this, he makes a lot of sense, Well, his latest HBR blog post, titled Why HR Needs to Stop Passing Over the Long-Term Unemployed, makes an equally compelling case. He writes, “The way to get hiring of the long-term unemployed started is to recognize that there is no objective case in this economy for not considering a candidate who has been out of work for a while. Therefore, excluding them out of hand is a form of prejudice. …”
  • Can you get worker’s comp for insubordination? According to the Sacramento Bee, former UC Davis police Lt. John Pike, who was fired after deciding to not follow orders and proceeding to pepper spray student protestors in a very public 2011 incident, “is seeking compensation for psychiatric injury he claims to have suffered after notoriously dousing a line of student protesters in the face with military-grade pepper spray.” And as the newspaper points out, “This raises questions about personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of your actions. Pike is suffering the consequences of his own decisions.”
  • Staying connected to work while on vacation. Miami Herald workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman raises an interesting question — Does staying connected to the office allow for longer vacationsShe says that, An abundance of research has found employees who take advantage of their vacation days perform better (short- and long-term) and are happier than those who let their days squander.”
  • Yes, money turns people into jerks. You probably already knew this instinctively, but Fast Company says that, “UC Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff has run 30 studies on thousands of people around the United States. And time and time again, he finds that the wealthiest participants tend to act the most deplorably.” Something to keep in mind the next time you’re giving raises, perhaps?

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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