Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported entirely by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Boeing’s Union Workers in the Crosshairs

by DAVID MACARAY

A brief summary of what’s been happening in Seattle between the Boeing Corporation and its union workforce, the IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers).  Aware they have the upper hand, and that thousands of relatively well-paying jobs hang in the balance, Boeing has resorted to an unsubtle form of carrot-and-stick extortion.

The carrot:  If the IAM agrees to re-open the existing contract and give the company several gut-wrenching concessions involving pensions, health care and future wages, Boeing will stay put, the jobs will remain in Seattle, Boeing, as planned, will allow the IAM to build its new 777X jet airliner, and the future will be rosy.  As the seminar creatures like to say, it’s a win-win.

The stick:  However, if the IAM doesn’t agree to the concessions, the Boeing Corporation will move its 777X operation out of the state of Washington and allow other, more reasonable and dependable states to bid on the job.  According to Boeing, who gleefully leaked the news to the media, 22 states have already shown interest.

More stick:  Realizing it has enormous leverage, and unwilling to let that advantage go unexploited, Boeing issued an ultimatum to the state of Washington.  Unless it gave the company a huge tax break, they would pack up and leave.  In a special legislative session, the state assembly, at the urging of the governor, granted Boeing more than $8 billion in tax breaks, the largest corporate subsidy in U.S. history.

So far, so good.  Everything was coming up roses for Boeing.  It had a timid state government eating out of its hand, it had the union back on its heels, playing defense, and it had the media doing its bidding. Then a startling and horrific event occurred.  Godzilla ate the carrot and stick.

By a whopping 2-1 margin, the union local, District 751, voted down the offer.  To be clear, this was purely a vote on the company’s re-opener.  With the contract still in effect, it wasn’t a prelude to a strike.  What the membership was saying with their “no” vote was that the current contract must remain in force until it expires, in 2016, at which time the parties would negotiate a new one, just as they always have done.

After that, things got ugly.  Boeing closed ranks and renewed its threat to leave, the state assembly began shitting bricks, and the IAM International demanded that another vote be taken, a move that, understandably, caused heartburn at the local.  District 751 doesn’t want another vote on an inferior contract.  Yet, with so much at stake, a very nervous International is insisting that the membership take another look at it.

There’s an old axiom in contract negotiations called the “two vote rule.”  It states that a membership will vote down a contract no more than twice.  They’ll vote in down once, to show their disapproval, they’ll vote it down twice, to show their defiance, but the third time around—partly from fatigue, partly from the realization that it’s likely the best offer they’re going to get—they’ll vote to ratify (unless they move to strike).

Thus, the union leadership’s fears are not unfounded.  Rather than buying into the company’s rhetoric, they see the Boeing move for the audacious and naked power play it is.  The IAM International may be too scared to call Boeing’s bluff, but District 751 isn’t.  In their view, all this talk about moving the 777X out of Seattle is just that….talk.

Not only are Boeing’s profits at a record high, the union believes if Boeing truly thought that uprooting its Seattle operation and moving to another state made the best business sense, they would have done it.  What’s to prevent them?  If moving was the “right” thing to do, they would have already moved.  This is a bluff, plain and simple.

Per the International’s demand, another vote is scheduled for January 3.  Unlike the bad old days, when certain unnamed unions (okay, the Teamsters) could unilaterally ratify a contract on behalf of the members, today’s unions are wildly democratic.  The members have the final say, and votes are conducted by secret ballot.

If District 751’s leadership can maintain discipline and keep the membership’s eye on the ball, this re-opener will be voted down.  And if there’s another vote following this one, we can only hope that the union is able to disprove that old “two vote rule.”  After all, weren’t rules meant to be broken? Onward!

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), was a former union rep.  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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]