A private investigator conducted around-the-clock surveillance at the homes of four striking Boeing Co. Machinists in Spokane who were vandalized after crossing a picket line to return to work.
Armed with a stakeout team and infrared cameras that see in the dark, Professional Investigations and Consulting Ltd. in Spokane recorded license plates and visitors to the workers’ homes during a five-week sting that ended Sunday. Boeing paid for the surveillance.
The stakeout, however, caught no one committing a crime, and investigators said the tapes will be destroyed.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t catch anybody on tape,” Tim Cosgrove, human resources manager for Boeing’s Spokane fabrication division, said Monday. “The information would have been turned over to local law enforcement agencies.”
Cosgrove said Boeing hired the investigators after vandals used gasoline to burn the words “scab” on the front yard of night nurse Marlyn Pugsley and committed other acts of vandalism. The 58-year-old Valley woman lived alone and returned to work because she needed the money.
Pugsley and three other Machinists living in Spokane and North Idaho crossed the picket line during the 69-day strike that ended last week. Three of them were elderly, single women.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents 293 workers at Boeing’s Airway Heights plant, where floor panels and air ducts are manufactured for the Seattle-based airplane maker.
Craig McClure, business representative for Machinists Local 86, said that the union did not condone violence against those who crossed the picket line. McClure said he was unaware of Boeing’s surveillance activity.
“I can’t see that it means anything at this point,” he said. “The strike’s over and we want to put it behind us.”
The Spokane County Sheriff’s office said it has no suspects in any incident of vandalism against the four Machinists.
No incidents of harassment on or off the job have been reported against the four Machinists since the union returned to work, Cosgrove said.
The majority of Machinists, Cosgrove said, behaved respectfully during the strike. But Boeing believed it had a responsibility to offer protection to the “courageous” workers who crossed the picket line.
Boeing believes word leaked about the surveillance, deterring further violence.
“This place is so small that everybody knows everybody else and everything that’s going on,” Cosgrove said from the Boeing plant. “There’s no secrets here.”
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