Not everyone shares in Boeing’s success

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Taxpayers around Washington state are trying to understand Boeing’s recent announcement of layoffs, just months after the Legislature met in special session to grant $8.7 billion in tax preferences — the largest such deal in American history.

Our relationship with Boeing has definitely changed.

For decades, Boeing products excelled in the marketplace. The company prospered and the community shared in those gains. Continue reading

A District 751 Leader Looks at the Jan 3 Boeing Contract

by Jason Redrup

A group of Boeing workers  to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Earlier this year, members at District 751 endured a devastating loss to our solidarity and the benefits we had fought decades to secure because of the actions of our International leadership. If what happened at 751 goes unchallenged, it will set a dangerous pattern for other contracts across the country. My goal is to ensure what happened in Seattle, doesn’t happen to another group of Machinists.

Even though we had a contract in place through 2016 and our District strongly objected, our International ordered a vote on a concessionary offer be held on Jan. 3rd knowing thousands of union members would be on vacation and unable to vote. This vote was ordered after many members had already begun their holidays, and the International refused to move the vote just one business day. With nearly 8,000 members not voting, we are now forced to live under a contract that eliminated pensions for all, more than doubles health care costs, slows wage growth by 75 percent and keeps us from returning to the bargaining table until 2024. This came not when Boeing was hurting, but enjoying record profits and backlogs. Continue reading

Challenging Extortion: Some Points on the Boeing Situation

by Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Much has already been written about Boeing’s successful extortion against its unionized workforce in Seattle to make them choose between losing jobs or sacrificing pensions and taking other concessions. On January 3, Boeing workers narrowly approved a set of concessions in a controversial revote ordered by the international union over the objections of the local leadership. Certainly the fact that the Boeing corporation, a highly profitable corporation extorted workers was reprehensible as many commentators have pointed out.

What I would like to discuss here is not the decision of Boeing workers to accept concessions but the system of labor laws which allowed Boeing to place unionized workers in that situation. Looking at the question this way requires digging into the underlying set of legal rules that allow employers to either blackmail unionized workers or, more commonly, simply move to avoid unionization. It involves questions including the outlawing of solidarity or ‘secondary’ tactics, union influence over decisions of capital mobility, and the degree to which we as a labor movement can work within a legal framework designed to ensure our failure. Continue reading

Boeing Workers Take a Stand & Take the Heat

by Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Local IAM District 751 union leaders in the state of Washington are feeling the fallout of Boeing’s extremely well-orchestrated counteroffensive begun immediately after Nov. 13 when 67% of union members rejected the company’s concessionary contract extension through 2024 of an existing agreement that does not actually expire until 2016.

Everyone expected Boeing would turn up the heat by threatening economic catastrophe for the Puget Sound area and thousands of lost jobs but these unionists were blindsided from a most unexpected source.

The IAM international, overruling local leadership, abruptly announced a Jan. 3 vote of another extension agreement eerily similar to the one that had just been rejected.

District 751’s website reported “International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger ordered the vote over objections of 751’s elected officials… and announced the Jan. 3rd vote to the Seattle Times on Saturday, Dec. 21.” Continue reading

The Battle for Seattle

by Zach Cunnigham

Zach Cunningham

Zach Cunningham

The AFL-CIO’s 2013 convention came with a great deal of fanfare.  Unlike other conventions in the recent past, many felt a sense of revitalization surrounding this year’s proceedings as the federation moved to change strategy in a number of key ways.  Perhaps most indicative of this shift was the passage of Resolution 16.  Titled “Enduring Labor-Community Partnerships,” this resolution noted the “broad macroeconomic transformations” that have “[accelerated] deep divides and inequalities in our society.”  “Unions must work hand in hand with community partners and allies,” it continues, “to reverse these economic trends.”

In the run-up to the convention, Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times wrote that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka “believes that if unions are having a hard time increasing their ranks, they can at least restore their clout by building a broad coalition to advance a worker-friendly political and economic agenda.”  What’s currently happening in the Seattle area could serve as a testing ground for this theory.

These are certainly interesting times for the labor movement in Seattle.  As Paul Bigman recently wrote in Labor Notes, there have been a number of “dramatic actions by and on behalf of workers in the past few months.”  These actions included a victory for the “traditional” movement, as both the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters successfully fought a concessionary contract for many grocery workers in the area.  There have also been a number of victories for workers outside the channels of collective bargaining, such as the passage of a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac (a small airport community outside of Seattle) and the election of Socialist Kshama Sawant to Seattle’s city council. Continue reading

How’d Seattle Do It?

by Paul Bigman

Bigman pic

Seattle grocery workers claimed attention with their strike-countdown clock. As they beat concessions, other area workers were winning a $15 wage and electing a socialist to city council. What’s in Seattle’s water? Photo: Vote Sawant.

Is there something in the water in Seattle?

The area has seen dramatic actions by and on behalf of workers in the past few months: defeat of concessions at major grocery chains, Boeing workers’ big “no” vote on concessions, a $15 minimum wage voted in for airport workers, and election of a socialist to city council—a candidate who made a city $15 minimum the centerpiece of her campaign.

Activists are hoping what’s happened here has implications far beyond the Puget Sound.

“We may be ahead of some areas, but we’re not unique,” predicted Dave Freiboth, head of Seattle’s county labor council. “This kind of change is coming nationally.”

In October, two hours before a regional grocery strike would have jumped off, 30,000 Food and Commercial Workers and Teamsters won a contract that defeated onerous health care concessions, and more, that had been forced on their co-workers in other states.

A few weeks later, Boeing Machinists (IAM) turned down an extortionist demand to freeze pension contributions for current workers, abandon defined-benefit pensions for new hires, and pay new hires $21,000 below current workers. Boeing had demanded an eight-year contract extension to keep work on the 777X airplane in Washington. Despite extraordinary intervention by the IAM International, the 31,000 Boeing workers voted “no” two to one. Continue reading

Machinists Defeat Boeing Proposal, Boo Union Brass Who Pushed It

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Machinists at Boeing resoundingly voted down mid-contract concessions yesterday and then booed the union leaders who had pushed the proposal on a shocked membership.

Their contract doesn’t expire until 2016, but the company is threatening to move production of the huge new 777X aircraft out of Washington state to avoid the union.

Boeing even promised $10,000 apiece upon approval, but the workers didn’t take the bait, opposing the scheme by 67 percent.

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Boeing Blackmails Washington Workforce on 777X Production

In 2008 Boeing Machinists struck against outsourcing and concessions. It was the last time the union bargained a pact that wasn’t a mid-contract extension made under threat of shipping away jobs. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Thirty-one thousand Machinists in Washington state were stunned to learn last week that their union had been talking with Boeing for at least two months about opening their contract for concessions to ensure that the next generation 777X plane would be built in Washington.

The contract doesn’t expire until 2016, but the company is threatening to move production of the huge new 777X out of Washington to avoid the union.
The company’s proposal was not made public until last Wednesday. Union members were then told they would vote on Wednesday, November 13.

A website sprang up urging members to “vote no to corporate blackmail” and questioning how the proposed contract would guarantee that the work stayed in Washington. Sponsors planned a rally today. Continue reading

Boeing’s Wage-Slashing Move to SC Backfires as Company Can’t Meet 787 Production Demand

by Chaz Bolte

Boeing-787-groundedWhen Boeing left Washington for South Carolina in order to suppress the wages of its workers, it also left behind the quality work that had been provided by a highly skilled, union workforce.  Now, that union-busting is backfiring as productivity has dropped immensely and Boeing is unable to meet their 787 Dreamliner production goals.

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Chasing South Carolina: For Boeing and Washington state, it’s a race to the bottom

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

(July 17, 2013) — Washington State has a world-class aerospace cluster, employing more than 130,000 people making products the rest of the world wants to buy. In 2003, Boeing cast a chill on the state, moving its headquarters to Chicago. In 2009, the chill deepened with the decision to assemble some 787s in South Carolina.This trend continues with recent announcements to move engineering work to Southern California, start an engineering center in South Carolina and transfer computing and pilot training work, too.

One interpretation is that Boeing is so averse to unions that it will move to any region committed to suppressing unions — South Carolina being a case in point.

Some industry observers and elected officials conclude that Washington State should weaken unions, to “compete.” There’s something creepy about this.

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