America Soon to Become a Corporate North Korea?

by DAVID MACARAY

We give ourselves too much credit for being a free-thinking and rebellious people. When we see North Korean citizens lining the streets of Pyongyang, ecstatically gushing over Kim Jong-Un, we snicker. When we’re told that they refer to this pompous dictator as “Brilliant Comrade” and “Dear Leader,” we cringe at how pitifully brainwashed they are.

But how would the citizens of Washington state respond if the Boeing Corporation were to issue this ultimatum? Either (1) you start referring to Boeing CEO Raymond Conner as “Our Glorious and Exalted Leader,” and agree to march in parades carrying placards proclaiming “God Bless Boeing,” or (2) you watch in disbelief and horror as the Boeing Corporation pulls up stakes and relocates to another state.

If you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in Washington lately, that ultimatum doesn’t seem particularly farfetched. A brief summary:

Some months ago, the Boeing Corporation dropped a bombshell by declaring that unless it got substantial tax breaks (and by “substantial” it clearly meant “unprecedented”), it would be forced to begin looking for another site on which to build its much anticipated 777X airliner.

To say Boeing is big is an understatement. Its influence is enormous. While the Boeing Corporation may not be as critical to Washington’s economy as, say, the textile industry is to Bangladesh, it is vitally important. Consider: In 2012, Boeing was responsible for $70 billion of the state’s $76 billion aerospace industry revenue.

When Boeing quietly announced, in 2001, that it was moving its corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, the announcement was deemed so potentially catastrophic, local news stations interrupted regularly scheduled programs to report it. Thus, one can understand how the thought of Boeing taking its 777X operation elsewhere might give the state of Washington a collective nervous breakdown.

Accordingly, in early November, at the urging of state Governor Jay Inslee (generally regarded as a “liberal Democrat”), the Washington state assembly, in a special session of the legislature, voted to give Boeing a huge tax break. The “Los Angles Times” (December 9), reported the package to be worth $8.7 billion, making it the largest corporate tax subsidy in U.S. history

By applying economic muscle in a way it had never quite been applied before, Boeing got what it wanted from the people. When Boeing ordered them to jump, the great state of Washington replied, “How high?” But then, alas, this beautifully conceived and well-orchestrated deal hit a snag. The union membership voted down the contract.

On November 13, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 voted overwhelmingly (by a margin of 2 to 1) to reject Boeing’s LBF (last, best and final offer), an offer that not only slashed employee pension and health care benefits, but included a provision that forbid the union to go on strike.

Considering that, going all the way back to the 1935 Wagner Act, the strike has been a union’s only real means of fighting back, Boeing’s offer was tantamount to declaring that not only would they be reaming out the union’s pension and health packages, they would be revoking the union’s fundamental right to rebel. Holy picket line, Batman!

Of course, the union saw Boeing’s move for what it was: an unvarnished power-play by the Glorious and Exalted Leader. The city fathers, governor, and state assembly saw it as well, but they were too scared to resist. So it was left to the workers themselves to take a stand. They weren’t asking for the moon, only for a fair shake. Boeing’s stock is at an all-time high. Year-to-date, it’s risen 58-percent, to $134.25 per share.

Doubtless, there will be more negotiations and, very likely, enough movement on both sides to reach a deal. Unfortunately, even with the courage shown by the union, the deck is so heavily stacked against working people, these things almost always end in favor of management. Given the power American corporations have, anyone who believes he couldn’t be turned into a North Korean is lying to himself.

David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown