Tax-break Boeing needs to get to work

So how about that $8.7 billion tax give-away Boeing just received to build the 777X? We have been here before. In 2003, the Legislature excused Boeing from $4 billion in taxes, in order to build the 787 in our state. What happened to that $4 billion? Over $1 billion was used to construct a copycat 787 facility in South Carolina. The other $3 billion? Some went into outsourcing construction of 787 parts all over the world, which were then shipped back to Everett, there to be snapped together. Only the pieces did not snap together and the Everett machinists and engineers had to re-jigger the pieces in order to make the 787 fly right. The result of this brilliant outsourcing strategy is that the 787 is about $14 billion over budget. And several years late. And how about those batteries?

Is Boeing management inept enough to do this again with the 777X? Its own customers would not appreciate that. “All we said to (Boeing) was, ‘Please don’t do to 777X what you did to the (787)… Don’t do that to us.” Those are the words of Emirates CEO Tim Clark, the 777X biggest customer. Or how about Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Akbar, the second largest 777X purchaser: “Frankly, we would rather everything was built in one place, and I think Boeing from the 787 experience have learnt a lesson.”

Boeing has given itself three months to decide on a 777X assembly location. When you put all the pieces on the table, there shouldn’t even be a competition. Everett machinists and engineers produce 100 jets per year. No other state has this experienced and dedicated workforce. No other state can match our aerospace training and transportation infrastructure. No other state has our network of aerospace contractors. And no other state has offered such a plum in tax giveaways, for better or worse!

The Legislature stated that “the people of Washington have benefited enormously from the presence of the aerospace industry in Washington state…” The Legislature could have also stated that Boeing has benefitted enormously thanks to thousands of engineers and mechanics in the aerospace industry, the transportation infrastructure, the state’s investment in engineering schools at the University of Washington and other universities and community colleges and our focus on workforce development specifically for Boeing.

But is Boeing profitable? Is the pope Catholic? $1 billion in 2003, $3 billion in 2006, $4 billion in 2010, $5.6 billion last year. So Boeing has the profits, they have the infrastructure, they have the intellectual and engineering know-how, they have the machinists’ expertise. And they just got a huge tax giveaway. So it is a green light for Washington state … except for those pesky machinists. Should the machinists just bow down to Boeing? Should they agree to break up their own labor force into two or three tiers? Should they agree to a 30 percent increase in health care costs? Should they abandon their pensions, which deliver decent, not extravagant, but dependable checks, in retirement?

Here is the thing: The machinists don’t need to approve a new contract. They already have one that runs for another three years. It is a legally binding agreement between the Boeing Co. and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers IAM. It was the machinists, after all, who proposed a 10-year contract a few years ago. It was Boeing that ran away from that proposal for labor peace and productivity. It was the machinists who exposed Boeing’s breaking of federal labor law, when the company actually wrote that it was moving production to South Carolina to undercut the union. And it was the machinists who agreed to drop this unfair labor practice charge in exchange for the current contract.

What Boeing needs to do is focus on building the best airplanes in the world, instead of taking away hard-won benefits, defunding the Boeing pension, and seeking out a “union-free” environment. We have helped Boeing enough. Now it is time for Boeing to get to work on the 777X, right here in Washington. That would be a productive partnership.

Union Busting Doesn’t Pay Off for Boeing

When Boeing announced in 2009 that it would invest $750 million Boeing in a new South Carolina production plant to build the 787 Dreamliner, the airplane giant said it needed to cut down on costs being driven up by unions. After years of battling with machinists unions, Boeing moved to non-unionized South Carolina where workers’ benefits and pay are much lower. In South Carolina, for example, Boeing pays plant workers $15 per hour, almost 50 percent less than what Washington assembly line workers earn.

Privately, however, this was never the case. In an internal memo that later became the basis for a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing bigwigs admitted that not only would the move cost them money, but “the only consistent advantage attributed to Charleston was the ability to ‘leverage’ the site placement decision toward ‘rebalancing an unbalanced and uncompetitive labor relationship.’”

But years later, Boeing is seeing another consequence to its costly move out of Washington – a less productive labor force. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal:

“Boeing’s South Carolina facility is running behind projections and won’t make its goal of producing three 787 Dreamliners a month by the end of 2013. In fact, the Everett plant will have to make up the difference in order for the company to reach its overall goal of 10 jetliners a month by year’s end.”

Washington’s Boeing machinists and assembly line workers are some of the best in the world because our state has the infrastructure to support their training, certification and long-term employment. The skills, awareness and experience from years of work in the industry are held partly by individual workers, but also in a local network of relationships, trust and everyday interactions in the workplace. This is clear to workers and managers close to the factory, but less so to executives in offices 2,000 miles away. Washington’s competitive edge in aerospace has even led Airbus, Boeing’s major global competitor, to consider opening a Washington engineering center.

Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas stated at the 2013 Paris Air Show, “We are attracted to Washington state for the same reason we were attracted to Wichita. That’s where the talent is. If you want to have access to the talent that developed over the last 100 years of aviation, Washington is very fertile ground.”

Put simply, we know how to do aerospace in Washington and we do it well. Aerospace unions are a central part of that. Maybe, just maybe, Boeing will realize now that union-busting isn’t just bad for their workers’ bottom lines, but their own as well.

Originally published at EOIOnline

Fast food workers strike, but where's the coverage?

The Nation is reporting today “Beginning at 10:30 PM Pacific Time Wednesday, workers at dozens of Seattle fast food locations plan to strike, launching the nation’s seventh work stoppage by fast food employees in eight weeks. Organizers expect workers from chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Arby’s, Chipotle, Qdoba, and Jack in the Box to participate in the walkout, which will last roughly twenty-four hours…..”

But it’s not being covered online by the Seattle Times,  the Seattle P-I or The Stranger, at least not on the front page.

See also Where Is The Media Coverage Of The Fast Food Workers’ Strike? is asking people to sign a petition of support for the striking workers.

Meanwhile, Costco’s Profit Soars To $459 Million As Low-Wage Competitors Struggle.

Fast Food Strike in Seattle


Boeing moves operations to South Carolina despite Washington State tax breaks

Boeing pays no state sales tax and received tax breaks worth between 2 and 3 billion dollars from the Washington State legislature. (See Huge tax breaks for aerospace didn’t deliver many new jobs.)

But The Seattle Times reports today: Washington worries as Boeing pours $1B into S.C.  Partly the shift to South Carolina is in response to $120,000,000. Another reason is that workers in South Carolina are non-unionized.

See also Boeing ignores taxbreaks, ships jobs to South Carolina and Texas from 2011.

Wed. Dec 5 Rallies to support Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid

On Wednesday, December 5th, AFGE Local 3937 will lead actions statewide to support Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. The locations and times are below. The message will be:

  • No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, including cost of living adjustments
  • No more office closings, reduced service hours, pushing of Internet self-service, or staffing cuts
  • Release the funding SSA needs to restore lost services working families have already paid forLabor and community organization members are welcome to join us, and bring banners and signs. Representatives of organizations who would like to say a few words of concern and support are asked to contact our spokespersons.

Location: NE corner, intersection of 4th Ave & Cherry St, Seattle WA 98104
Spokesperson: Steve Kofahl
Cell phone: 425-275-8770
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 noon

Location: SSA, 3809 Broadway, Everett WA 98201
Spokesperson: Carrie Kitchin-Kofahl
Cell phone: 425-478-5576
Time: 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Location: SSA, 714 N. Iron Bridge Way, Spokane WA 99202
Spokesperson: Ana Rivers
Cell phone: 509-994-5698
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Location: SSA, 9594 Mickelberry Rd NW, Silverdale WA 98383
Spokesperson: Ivan Weich
Cell phone: 360-731-9782
Time: 11:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.

Location: SSA, 1118 S. Kimball Ave, Caldwell ID 83605
Spokesperson: Andrea Wassner
Cell phone: 208-989-5550
Time: 12 noon – 1 p.m.

The Battle of Blair Mountain

Alan Grayson sent out an email about this. He asked: “Now let me ask you one thing: had you ever heard of this landmark event in American history, the Battle of Blair Mountain, before you read this? And if not, then why not? Think about that.”

“The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the largest civil uprisings in United States history and the largest armed rebellion since the American Civil War.[1] For five days in late August and early September 1921, in Logan County, West Virginia, some 10,000 armed coal miners confronted 3,000 lawmen and strikebreakers [goons], called the Logan Defenders,[2]who were backed by coal mine operators during an attempt by the miners to unionize the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. The battle ended after approximately one million rounds were fired,[3] and the United States Army intervened by presidential order….

In the long-term, the battle raised awareness of the appalling conditions faced by miners in the dangerous West Virginia coalfields, and led directly to a change in union tactics in political battles to get the law on labor’s side via confrontations with recalcitrant and abusive managements and thence to the much larger organized labor victory a few years later during the New Deal in 1933. That in turn led to the UMWA helping organize many better-known unions such as the Steel Workers during the mid-thirties….”   (source: wikipedia)

Labor Notes: Why Did So Many Workers Vote for Walker?


We progressive labor people might smugly shake our heads and ask, how can these people vote against their own interests? While some of them are serious cultural conservatives or racists, probably a majority legitimately see themselves as actually voting in their own self interest.

People struggling to get by on $12-15 an hour have to watch every penny. And the Republican message of small government and low taxes resonates every time a worker pays sales tax, property tax, or income tax.

And thanks in part to a gullible or lazy media which dutifully and uncritically repeats GOP propaganda about the eventual demise of Social Security and Medicare, struggling workers have a jaundiced view of their payroll taxes. The Republicans, with their expensive wars and tax giveaways for the wealthy, are certainly not the party of small government and fiscal responsibility, but they have sold their message well.

If progressives hope to regain governing power, they have to win back the “unfriendlies” in the working class, as Mike Amato correctly points out. They might not be able to garner the support of the devoted racists and cultural conservatives, but they can and must win the loyalty of the others.