America Soon to Become a Corporate North Korea?

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

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South