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The Ruckus at Boeing: Round One Goes to Them

by MIKE WHITNEY

“The widespread opposition to the sellout comes as Boeing announced its biggest cash payout in history, with plans to implement a $10 billion stock buyback and increase its quarterly dividend by 50 percent. The company is expected to announce record profits for its commercial unit in 2013.”

— Shannon Jones, “Machinists’ union rams through sellout deal at Boeing”, World Socialist Web Site

“Welcome to the world of total corruption, corporate welfare, and extortion. Didn’t we fight wars in foreign countries to free people from these things? I guess none of that really matters anymore. All praise the almighty dollar, your new master.”

— Scott, comments section, Leeham News and Comment; Intelligence for the Aviation Industry

It’s the same everywhere. The giant corporations are so loaded with dough, they don’t know what to do with it. Even so, they know what they DON’T want to do with it. They don’t want to pay their workers their fair share. That’s against their religion. They’d rather disrupt production, annihilate the local economy and send the markets into freefall than hand over even one red cent to the hard working grunts who haul their water and fatten their bank accounts.

That’s the Boeing story in a nutshell.

Boeing management has always sucked. Just ask anyone who’s lived in the Northwest for the last 30 or 40 years. They’ve always had an antagonistic relationship with the people who’ve made them rich, the workers. Every filthy dollar of profit that gets stuffed into some lazy-ass Boeing execs pocket, is the result of some underpaid working stiff busting his hump for 40, 50 or 60 hours a week.  Believe it.

This latest contract dust-up has nothing to do money, that’s all a big smokescreen. Boeing’s up to its eyeballs in money. That’s why they’re buying back $10 billion in their own stock and increasing dividends by 50 percent. Because they have more dough than you can shake a stick at.

So why are they going after workers pensions, healthcare and wages? Surely, if a company can afford to blow $10 billion on “buybacks”–which gooses stock prices but adds zilch to production–they should be able to spare a few coppers for the workerbees so they can retire comfortably after 40 years of back-breaking drudgery.

Ahhh, but that’s what all the “experts” are missing in this latest labor flap, the reason “why” workers are under the gun to begin with?

Is it because profits are down, is that it?

Heck, no. Profits are better than ever. According to the conservative Puget Sound Business Journal, Boeing’s been raking in “record profits” in 2013, so it’s not like the company has fallen on hard times or something. They haven’t. They’re making moolah hand over fist and stand to make a bundle more in the next decade or so if they play their cards right. They just don’t want to share any of that lucre with the wage slaves who make it all happen, the guys who get up at 3AM for a 10-hour grind so some fatcat blowhard in a 3-piece powersuit can spend more time working on his golf swing or picking out vintage bottles of plunk at some $1,500 per night spa on Orcas Island.

Oh my, did I speak ill of the “job creators”?

So, sorry. We can’t have that! Check out this update from Shannon Jones at the World Socialist Web Site:

 “An eight-year contract extension at Boeing was narrowly pushed through Friday after officials from the International Association of Machinists (IAM) forced a new vote on essentially the same deal rank-and-file workers rejected by a two-to-one margin in November. The IAM claimed 51 percent of the workers voting on the sellout agreement ratified it.

The deal—which extends the current contract from 2016 to 2024—eliminates company-paid pensions, imposes higher healthcare costs in accordance with Obama’s health care law and reduces wage increases. It also bars strikes through the expiration of the contract.

The vote tally was greeted in the Everett, Washington union hall with shock, anger and accusations of vote rigging….”  (“Machinists’ union rams through sellout deal at Boeing”, World Socialist Web Site)

“Vote rigging”?

Uh, Huh. And there’s no chance of a recount either because –according to Reuters– “the national leaders would not allow it.”

Well that’s just great. And did you catch that part about  “the International Association of Machinists (IAM) forced a new vote on essentially the same deal rank-and-file workers rejected by a two-to-one margin in November”?

Nice, eh? So their own guys stabbed them in the back?

Yep, they sure did. But why would they do that?

Is it because all the union big shots are in the hip-pocket of the corporations and the quisling Democratic Party?

Right again. It’s all a charade, just like President Hopium promising to reduce inequality after putting the screws to working people for the last 6 years. It’s all public relations baloney, not a word of truth to any of it.  The union bosses are just like their double-dealing, two-faced buddies in the Democratic Party. Pharisees, all of them!

So, here’s the deal in black and white:

1–The pension plan is frozen for all members.

2–Wage increases are 75% less than current contract.

3– Monthly health care premiums triple over life of extension; co-pays double. (And) Health care benefits can be reduced without negotiations with union.

4–New savings plan is at the mercy of the stock market. No guarantees. If the market crashes, your retirement gets wiped out. End of story.

5–The new retirement savings plan delivers two-thirds less that current contract.

6–No clear statement of work.

Oh yeah, and there’s also a neat little ‘no strike’ clause in there, so if management comes back a year or two into the new contract and wants to switch things around (like they did in this deal), then workers are prohibited from walking off the job.

That’s how management disempowers working people and turns them into submissive zombies kowtowing to the master class. “Punch the clock, do your job, and shut the hell up.” That’s the message, isn’t it?

Here’s more from the WSWS:

 “One Everett, Washington Boeing worker told the World Socialist Web Site, “It’s the same deal as before. It’s a bunch of hooey…..Everyone is very pissed off about it. It is like collusion. … The union really is tied in with Corporate America”…

“They are using the money they have to buy back stock—not to give us anything. This contract has health care cuts of 16 percent.”…

Another Boeing worker, Tyler Ackley, said, “This is mostly about taking away our pensions. We are not given much information. I feel the union sees a lot of information behind closed doors.”…

Another worker, Ray, added, “This contract is really no different than the last one. Boeing has record profits. The backlog of planes is high, and the stock price is high. But we can’t have our pension.” (“Machinists’ union rams through sellout deal at Boeing”, World Socialist Web Site)

It all sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it; the voracious corporations, the sellout politicians, the duplicitous union bosses? All cut from the same cloth; all joined at the hip. They all want the same thing too; more of your pension, more of your healthcare, and more of your salary.

The ruckus at Boeing is just the latest example of the age-old “Us against Them” struggle.

Unfortunately, this round goes to “Them”.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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