Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bosses waged economic terrorism against Boeing workers.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

"Brethren we conjure you...not to believe a word of what is being said about your interests and those of your employers being the same. Your interests and theirs are in a nature of things, hostile and irreconcilable.  Then do not look to them for relief...Our salvation must, through the blessing of God, come from ourselves.  It is useless to expect it from those whom our labors enrich."
1840's appeal from New England laborers  Foner History of the Labor Movement Vol. 1 p192

In November of 2013 Boeing workers’ members of IAM District Lodge 751 AFL-CIO rejected a contract with deep concessions by a 67% to 33% margin. A major issue was pensions.  Boeing bosses were demanding the freezing of pensions and other concessions as they moved workers from a defined benefit plan to a defined-contribution savings plan. We have seen this trend throughout organized Labor and the potential of  these heavy battalions of the labor movement, the auto and aircraft workers to harm profits and destabilize the US economy is well known; they have to be dealt with from the bosses’ point of view.

By rejecting that contract, IAM members were standing in the forefront of the struggle not only to defend their benefits and jobs, but the future for all workers, particularly young workers entering or new to the workforce.

The bosses were not pleased. In the world of global capitalism, US workers have to become more competitive if US capitalists are to stay ahead of the pack and keep profits rolling in; we need to be brought more in line with the Koreas and Brazils as one industrialist once said. Boeing bosses were not alone in their concerns.  The Union hierarchy atop the IAM and organized Labor in general has the same worldview as the boss; profits are sacrosanct, the market and capitalism must be defended. They endorse the Team Concept, the view that workers and bosses have the same economic interests, profits come first, sacrifices have to be made-----by workers of course.

Yesterday, January the third 2014, these same workers voted to accept these drastic concessions by a 1% margin.  What happened in just over a month?

What has happened is what always happens when the bosses are faced with that first line of resistance, the rejection of a concessionary contract.  What is really a gang composed of Boeing execs, aircraft industry bosses and politicians----- in this case representing the Democratic Party, one of the capitalist’s two major parties------and the union hierarchy got together and orchestrated a major assault on the Boeing workers and their families. They have waged a terror attack of immense proportions. This existed before last month’s rejection but went full steam ahead after it.

Leading up to this contract Boeing bosses had been threatening to move production to non union plants in the South if the Seattle Workers didn’t buckle under.  As they always do, they blackmail our communities, forcing localities to offer free land, low or no taxes, and other concessions in order to keep jobs there.  Boeing had already received $9 billion in subsidies from Washington taxpayers. After November’s rejection, Boeing bosses openly submitted bids to other states as the war against Boeing workers intensified.

Workers were now faced with a full-scale onslaught by the bosses’, their media, their politicians and their allies in our movement, the heads of organized labor.  The leaders of the IAM International Union forced yesterday’s vote on a contract that had already been rejected and that the local leadership opposed. The month long war of terror inflicted on the Boeing workers took its toll and they got their “yes” vote, but only barely.
"We missed it by one per cent because people were confused and worried about their jobs,” one worker said, “I’m still just numb,” said another.

"I think people that voted for it were scared," one worker was quoted by AP as saying, "The pressure
from the politicians and the community — people are scared about not having good-paying Boeing jobs.”  There is reason to be scared but more reason when you are faced with a powerful combination of the bosses’ and your own leaders. That yesterday’s contract passed by a small 1% margin shows the potential for a real fight back, an offensive of our own to drive back the assault of the 1% and their politicians on our standard of living.

In times like these, those who claim to be our friends are exposed as the treacherous enemies they are. All the politicians in one-way or another pressured the workers, claimed the state’s future is doomed if they didn’t take concessions. Jay Inslee, the lawyer and Washington State’s Democratic governor hailed the deal along with Boeing execs. "The tough vote taken by the Machinists today means the 777X will be built in the only place it should be, by the only people prepared to deliver,", Washington State Senator, Patty Murray, a Democrat, told the Associated Press.

Tom Buffenbarger, the IAM, International President forced this vote over the objections of the local leadership.  These people are enemies of the working class, class traitors. The contract length is 8 years and Buffenbarger, like his Democratic Party colleagues, boasts of the impact this will have on the economy of Washington for, "For decades to come, the entire region will benefit from the economic activity and technological innovations that will accompany" he tells the Associated Press. He has learned the art of propaganda well from his business friends.

The local leadership can be commended for opposing the contract but that is not enough as I explained in the previous blog.  "Our members have spoken and having said that, this is the course we'll take," Jim Bearden, a spokesperson for IAM District Lodge 751 told the media.  He added that, Boeing production workers "faced tremendous pressure from every source imaginable." He took a dig at "the politicians and the media, and others, who truly didn't have a right to get into our businesses, were aligned against us and did their best to influence our folks' votes."

 Bearden was right to take a dig at our enemies.  But more than a dig is needed; they will always be in “our business” and they will always use their media and all sorts of terroristic threats and means to influence what we do and how we think. The mass media has never been neutral always biased against workers, it always has and always will, the same folks that own Boeing own the mass media.

What Is To Be Done?
The local IAM leadership who have been undermined by the class collaborators atop the IAM must openly condemn the traitorous role played by the union hierarchy. They are not alone.  We saw the same during the ILWU’s Longview struggle, the same with the grain silos, and the same with the BART strike here in the Bay Area and the UFCW battles including the 2003 grocery strike.

The heads of the UAW have played the same role undermining and crushing any resistance to the auto bosses’ assault on their members that lifted its head among the ranks. In Cleveland NC the UAW leadership helped the bosses terminate leaders of a local that struck to defend their members.  

Back in the 1980’s we saw a serious attempt by sections of the US labor movement to counter the bosses’ offensive, Hormel, Eastern Airlines, Greyhound, Teamsters, these too were driven back with the help of the leaders of the international unions and the AFL-CIO.

The labor hierarchy does not represent our interests; they represent the interests of those that Bloomberg just announced yesterday have increased their wealth more than $500 billion last year. Three hundred individuals have accumulated $3.7 trillion in wealth and the richest one of them lives in Washington State. As they say in today’s language, WTF!

There are thousands upon thousands of union rank and file members and local leaders who have attempted to halt this offensive, this slide in to pauperism. They fought heroically and lost thanks to the like of Buffenbarger. Many of them simply gave up, became demoralized, found another path in life through no fault of their own. They had and have nowhere to go. In the nineteen eighties there were attempts to build a national movement, I remember attending some of these efforts myself like the defunct Rank and File Against Concessions.

I appeal to those leaders of Boeing’s IAM Local who opposed this contract to move to change the course of US labor history and the balance of class forces in the USA. I appeal to these brothers and sisters to collectively and openly condemn the IAM International President Buffenbarger and his executive board for their collaboration with the 1% in the destruction of a standard of living that took decades of heroic sacrifice and struggle to win.  There is no guarantee of decent jobs in the capitalist world, Buffenbarger just handed the future of our youth over to the 1%.

I appeal to them to use the media to our advantage as best we can and reach out to their own members and the numerous other unions where dissenters and genuine fighters have come up against the bosses and our own leaders as they attempted to stem the concessionary tide.  

A call should be out out for a national conference to declare the end to the assault on US workers and our communities and to build a national movement to fight back.  An appeal should be made to all workers, union and non-union to come to it. Throughout the country there are isolated battles and new developments like the election of a socialist to Seattle city Council, the success of her colleague in Minnesota, the election of independent union candidates in Ohio. The election of Kshama Sawant, a socialist to Seattle City Council is very important and Sawant should be approached to join in these efforts, she is the only politician that has offered an alternative to defeat, that Boeing workers take over the plant in some form of “democratic ownership”. Read more here.

An isolated local or group of workers cannot defeat the forces against us; we must have a national movement of our own. We cannot win, worker against worker, state against state, region against region. Jobs and a living for all is a minimum requirement for a decent life. A special appeal should be made to those who have fought and lost to bring their experience and skills to it. Most of the workers in our jails would not be there were an alternative available.

The workers that voted for this contract at Boeing saw no way forward, no force that they can turn to that could counter the offensive of the 1% and the labor hierarchy.  Jim Bearden, the IAM spokesperson said that his “members have spoken.” But they have not spoken. They were threatened, terrorized and coerced; the vote was illegitimate, as illegitimate as the captive of a terrorist group’s confession with blindfolded captors behind him holding machetes.

It is a betrayal of those that fought before us and especially of the youth of the future if we continue to allow this situation to continue. We have no alternative but to fight.

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It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow--the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more...Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must be done to make people accept this reality.  Business Week 10-12-74.

1 comment:

Jennifer Rice said...

Richard, I own a pro-union newspaper based out of Aurora, Ill., called the Fox Valley Labor News. I'd like permission to reprint your article. Please contact via
-Jennifer Rice, Editor/Publisher