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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewable of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail