Today, Boeing’s machinists union will vote on a revised contract for work on the new 777X aircraft. The controversy surrounding the contract seems silly to me. I’m not anti-union, but I do believe in give-and-take. It seems that if Boeing has the option to move its manufacturing elsewhere to achieve lower costs, then their union needs to face reality and bargain to keep them in Washington.
There have been a lot of wild statements. In a Seattle Times article yesterday, one employee complained, “If I don’t have a pension with Boeing, I’m going to have to find another job.” Why? Because Boeing wants to switch these people to a 401(k) like the rest of its employees (and most employees of other companies)? Many people don’t have any company-sponsored retirement plan and have to make do with an IRA. I don’t deny that a losing a pension with guaranteed benefits may hurt, but it’s hardly the end of the world.
Last fall, Seattle elected Kshama Sawant to the City Council. She made quite a point of running as a socialist during the campaign, and one of the first things she did was suggest that the machinists seize the factory. If there’s one thing we learned from the revolutions of the early 20th century, I think it’s that employees — while important — are one piece of the puzzle. Companies exist to organize all sorts of capital, including human, financial, and intellectual. Planes aren’t cheap or easy to build. Trying to operate alone with only human capital, let alone suggest that all of Boeing’s infrastructure can be easily repurposed, isn’t very sensible.
“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say the machines are here, the workers are here, we will do the job, we don’t need the executives. The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do,” she said.
Sawant says after workers “take-over” the Everett Boeing plant; they could build things everyone can use.
“We can re-tool the machines to produce mass transit like buses, instead of destructive, you know, war machines,” she told KIRO 7.
Yeah. Good luck with that.
I’ve lived in Seattle for six years now, and it’s usually a very tolerant and — most importantly — reasonable city. We have more college-educated people here than any other major U.S. metropolitan area, and workers at Boeing and other industries are also specialized and well-educated.
Yet the national leadership of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had to step in and force a vote on a the new contract because the local leadership was too insistent on their way or the highway. At this point, any ending is probably going to be bad for the union. If they approve the contract, they already look like fools for dragging it out. If they reject the contract, I expect Boeing to call their bluff and move the work elsewhere.
The results — and the aftermath — will certainly be interesting to watch. Pizza in Motion has his own opinions on the vote that may be worth reading and, like me, expects it to be close.