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Boeing Is Bringing Back Recently Retired Employees

More companies are seeing the value of keeping older workers

spinner image A worker helping to build an airplane
Boeing is bringing retired employees back into the workplace, seeing that older workers with specialized skills are valuable to the bottom line. 
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To help meet production goals on its 737 jetliners, Boeing is luring retired employees back to work at its plant outside Seattle.

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Paul Bergman, a Boeing spokesman, said the company plans to hire recently retired mechanics to help with “near-term airplane production requirements” at the plant in Renton, Wash. In August, the company reached an agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to bring back retirees for up to six months. Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the union, said retirees will receive a $500 bonus for each month they work at the plant.

Jacquelyn James, director of the Sloan Research Network on Aging & Work, said the move by Boeing is an example of companies beginning to realize the value of keeping older workers with specialized skills on the job past traditional retirement age. “Employers are starting to get it, that older adults can be beneficial to the bottom line,” James said.

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Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said it is smart for Boeing to focus on retirees when it needs to ramp up temporarily to meet demand. Unretired workers may not want to return to their old schedules, he said, but a temporary job with flexibility might be appealing. “Trying to find workers, especially on a temporary basis, who understand the operations and can make contributions immediately is otherwise just about impossible,” Cappelli said.

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