The July 16 strike sanction vote means the Boeing contract battle is in full swing. For nearly a year, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) leadership has been pushing the slogan, “It’s Our Time, This Time.” They say that if workers in union plants stick together, they can negotiate a contract to increase our wages, benefits and job security. Workers on the shop floor are not so sure. As one machinist puts it: “What part of capitalism don’t they understand?!”
In this struggle, illusions won’t serve us. Currently, Chinese, Russian and European capitalists are economically challenging the U.S. bosses, undermining U.S. rulers’ political clout. War to maintain the empire is pushed to the forefront, with both presidential candidates offering plans for a “better” war. In this climate, the U.S. bosses are rebuilding their industrial military base on the backs of the working class, particularly those of us in basic industry. Racism and sexism lead the attack. Black and Latin workers — women and men — in the subcontractor plants were the first and most brutally attacked. (The subcontractors are non-union, low-wage plants to which outfits like Boeing farm out work formerly produced by higher-wage union plants — domestic outsourcing.)
The bosses use racist super-exploitation as a wedge to attack all industrial workers: 140,000 unionized senior autoworkers will be replaced by 77,000 new workers at half the wage. The UAW carefully isolated American Axle strikers for 83 days this spring, and then railroaded a contract through that cut 2,000 jobs and wages by a third to a half. The Nucor company is building the first integrated steel plant in the U.S. in four decades right outside Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to take advantage of some of the country’s lowest, non-union labor. No matter what eventually happens with the tanker contract, the bosses, with the Pentagon’s blessing, are determined to erect a “southern aerospace corridor” in non-union, low-wage Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The system depends on this kind of racist exploitation to build profits.
The Boeing bosses have no illusions about the times — or their ruling-class needs. In late June, they eliminated defined pensions (ones with guaranteed specific benefits) for all non-union new hires, demanding the same of union workers when the old contract expires on September 3. They’re pushing healthcare cuts disguised as a “wellness-based healthcare system.” They’ve said our wages are “above the market rate” after they slashed the “market rate” through racist outsourcing — which they’re accelerating. In order to afford to attack the world’s workers, the bosses must attack us here at home — and Boeing bosses are doing their (very profitable) part!
Fight The Bosses’ Ideas Within Our Ranks
Relying on deals with the company bosses — never wise — and believing their lie that “what’s good for the company is good for the workers” is increasingly delusional in these times. The bosses’ imperialist plans call for more war, nationalism, racism, sexism and attacks on our standard of living. The only viable answer is to smash the capitalist system with communist revolution — no easy, short-term task. We’ll never succeed without waging a long-term fight against the bosses’ ideas.
When union members struggled for our locals to participate in the immigrant rights May Day marches to fight anti-immigrant racism, they were building the class-consciousness we’ll need this fall. When workers raised money for the Jena 6 on the shop floor and fought the union misleadership to protest this racist outrage, we were laying the anti-racist groundwork for the class struggle ahead. When we exposed the Pentagon’s role in promoting aerospace wage-cuts, we took aim at the dead-end flag-waving of the union sellouts.
In this vein, PLP is sponsoring Summer Projects in the Seattle area and among L.A. aerospace subcontractors. Building anti-racist, international solidarity between union workers and non-union super-exploited subcontractor workers takes aim at the bosses’ divide-and-conquer strategy.
We face a tough battle, and may not win this round, but we can build our offense with strike preparations. We can struggle for the kind of class-consciousness and solidarity that teach us about workers’ power. We can build forces among those already in basic industry and young revolutionary workers just entering the factories in order to eventually destroy this bosses’ nightmare.
Support the Seattle and Los Angeles Summer Projects
The Progressive Labor Party is organizing Summer Projects in Seattle and Los Angeles to both learn from workers’ experiences and bring revolutionary ideas to workers, soldiers and students. We urge you to join us in going to factories, military bases, visiting with workers, and studying the science of revolution — Dialectical Materialism — as well as hearing from the experience of revolutionary workers themselves. Volunteers will learn first-hand from their class sisters and brothers and share experiences, which can lead to a lifetime of serving their class and fighting for a communist revolution. Please join us for a great revolutionary time! Make a donation and support a Summer Project volunteer.