WARMAKER BOEING’S ATTACK ON ALL WORKERS
Puget Sound, WA, August 30 —“Strike, Strike” reverberated down the Auburn plant aisles. Thousands or Boeing Workers marched outside negotiations near the airport chanting, “Out the Gate, in ’08.” Seven thousand emptied the Everett complex for three days running taunting the company to “Paint the Lines,” a reference to the green lines security traditionally paints around the factories to mark where picketers shouldn’t cross. These marches followed a month of Rolling Thunder: workers banging their tools making a deafening sound like thunder rolling through the plants, every hour on the hour. Boeing workers have taken matters into their own hands, forcing the union mis-leadership to recommend a strike Sept. 4.
This militancy did not arise spontaneously. For years, PLP helped lead mass rebellions in Boeing plants building Rolling Thunder, organizing mass marches and protest rallies as part of class struggle against the bosses and their imperialist plans for the aerospace industry. The union misleaders have tried to appropriate the tactics, but it got away from them. As IAM District President Tom Wroblewski lamented, “Once you get these guys up the mountain, it hard to get them back down again.”
Workers should harbor no illusions that this militant activity alone can reverse the sharpening attacks on our class. Millions must be guided by communist, class-conscious ideas, organized by the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party (PLP), in order to truly change society.
Global capitalist competition causes the general trend to attack industrial workers, particularly younger, newer workers. The rising industrial and military prowess of Russia and China, the U.S. bosses’ main imperialist competitors, gives new urgency to the U.S. bosses’ need to retool and cut costs. In addition, the racist super-exploitation of subcontract workers, those working in a rapidly growing number of non-union, low-wage sweatshops, is changing the face of the aerospace industry.
Reject the “Kick Your Kids to the Kurb (KKK)” Contract! Strike!
Boeing is flush with cash at the moment, having made more that $13 billion in profit in recent years. The bosses, however, feel pressed to hold every penny as they look to the sharpening fight against their imperialist rivals. The union misleaders, meanwhile, are bickering over how much of this cash they can get to bribe older union workers to sell out the next generation.
Between 2006 and 2008, average Boeing wages have dropped $6/hour because of lower rates for new hires agreed to in prior contracts. This contract will lock in the trend of increasing exploitation, as nearly 50% of the Boeing workforce, those currently earning the highest wages, will retire in the next few years.
The tactics may differ, but in the end, aerospace workers will suffer the same fate as their class brothers and sisters in auto and other industries. More work will be subcontracted to the non-union shops; union workers will face lay-offs or lower pay in the current plants. We must not accept this contract. Workers must strike!
Workers Debate Dismal Future Under Capitalism
Progressive Labor Party called for a “United Aerospace Strike” in our well-received flyer at the airport demonstration. We included solidarity statements from Mississippi shipyard workers, Long Beach Boeing workers and L.A. subcontractor workers. Every statement warned of “losing higher-paid jobs to lower paid, non-union employees at an alarming rate.”
The battle for the hearts and minds of the Boeing workers is as sharp as the sound of Rolling Thunder. The pro-capitalist union leaders offer ideas that will not challenge the bosses’ system. They blame the bad contract offer and the loss of union jobs on “this blatant example of corporate greed.” That’s why they tried, and failed, to start the chant “Boeing’s offer is unfair, all we want is our fair share.”
Workers debated the unions’ ideas for hours on the shop floor, with many rejecting the misleaders’ analysis. We built this factory with our labor, and our class, the working class, should control it!
As the bosses fled Rolling Thunder, we organized meetings of CHALLENGE readers in the plants. Riffing on the debates initiated during the Party’s July Summer Project, we discussed how bad ideas undermined the Chinese Revolution. We learned how Chinese revisionists –– misleaders who revised revolutionary ideas to take power back from the working class –– defeated the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, and consolidated capitalism’s hold on China. They busted up the communal farms, sending the equivalent of the U.S. population into the new Chinese factories at dirt-cheap wages. The imperialist rivalry has never been the same.
Kick Capitalism To The Curb
We also discussed how capitalism reinforces racism, sexism and imperialism. We discussed how the dog-eat-dog capitalist economic base makes it impossible to mitigate, let alone eliminate, these divisions in the working class. “How can communism succeed when we are so divided against each other?” asked our friend.
We examined the different economic base in a communist system, based on the collective strength of the international working class and the slogan “from each according to their commitment, to each according to their need.” We debated whether a movement guided by communist politics that smashed the ruling class and revolutionized the economic base could indeed change how workers interact with each other. The road to workers’ power is built on fighting these evils of capitalism right now in this contract battle. But many agreed that the final defeat of racism, sexism and imperialism requires a communist revolution.
Everybody agreed this was a long, hard fight, made doubly difficult by the defeat of the old communist movement. One friend said, “A light bulb turned on” when PLP members explained how concessions to the wage system made by the old movement doomed it from the start.
In the end, the choice was made clear: we could kick our kids to the curb or kick capitalism to the curb. We left these discussions resolving to sell more CHALLENGES, distribute PLP basic documents Road to Revolution III and IV, organize two PLP study groups and build our revolutionary forces. As we go to print it looks like we’ll strike on Sept. 4. Either way, the future is ours if we build these revolutionary communist forces in our industry and throughout the working class.