WORKERS MUST FIGHT RACISM
SEATTLE, WA, September 14 — “Sellout!” shouted machinists as International Association of Machinists (IAM) aerospace negotiator Mark Blondin announced Boeing workers would be going to work the next day, September 4, despite an 87% strike vote. He said Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire had arranged for 48 hours of federal mediation. In response the workers threw chicken bones and water bottles (left over from the volunteer vote counters’ dinner). The union hall erupted. Blondin and IAM District President Tom Wroblewski fled the stage. They sent out the union P.R. person, hoping for better results. No dice!
Blondin and Wroblewski flew the next day to negotiate at the Disney resort in Florida to be joined by IAM International President Buffenbarger. Back on the shop floor, “No Contract, No Work” signs sprung up at abandoned workstations. One foolish manager tracked down a worker to do a “hot” job (one that would hold up the assembly line). “Why don’t you call the governor and get her to come down here and do it!” the worker replied angrily. By afternoon, the assembly line had stopped because they couldn’t get enough workers.
When management asked us what more can we possibly want, many replied, “All we want is our egg salad on white bread (the traditional fare for picketers).” Some half jokingly threatened to “picket the union hall with baseball bats.” By Friday night demonstrations moved towards the gates with “United We Stand” signs.
Small picket lines began forming outside the plants. The Party distributed flyers and signs in the plants and at the gates. Clearly the union leadership would have to let us strike after the initial 48 hours, no matter what deals they worked out. “I always thought the union had one leg in the bed with the company, but I didn’t realize they were way under the covers,” a facilities maintenance worker said. We were in no mood to accept any contract. We made plans to wildcat if they dared to extend the “no strike” negotiations.
Even as the Boeing strike enters its second week, the big story is still how we got here. Wroblewski has been going around to union meetings pleading, “I understand the memberships’ emotion. The pot was boiling.” Acknowledging that he’s taken licks on the picket line, he tries to justify the leadership’s 48 hour betrayal saying the company blinked. If this spin doesn’t work (and it isn’t), we’ll hear many more incredible excuses. His greatest fear is being boiled in the pot of rank-and-file insurrection he had to face during those 48 hours.
The Dictatorship Of The Bosses vs. The Dictatorship Of The Working Class
Since the strike vote was taken PLP members and friends have had discussions on the nature of the bosses’ dictatorship and general revolutionary history.
Many workers want to know what the communists are saying. Most are friendly; others are incensed at our influence on sections of the workforce. We pointed out that when the federal mediator and the governor stepped into the negotiations, they were not neutral parties. The federal mediator is in daily contact with the chief IAM negotiator.
As the Party’s flyer stated, the Governor and the mediator were “the political representatives of the ruling class.” Lest we forget, “this is the same federal government whose Pentagon says ‘outsourcing is the answer’ to the exorbitant expense of their high-tech weapons.” Outsourcing means shifting work to racist, low-wage subcontractors employing larger numbers of black, Latin and immigrant workers. This is the same government that wants a “southern aerospace corridor” in the low-wage, non-union Southeast. The legacy of racism has driven down the wages of these workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. “Both rely on racist super-exploitation to fund the bosses’ imperialist ambitions and we will continue to fight these efforts to divide us,” our leaflet warned.
“That’s what the bosses’ dictatorship looks like,” our Party argued in numerous shop floor debates. “They’ll let you vote on anything until it threatens their power. Whether it’s a Democrat or Republican, it’s still the bosses’ racist dictatorship.”
When we refused to work during those 48 hours, overriding their contract and pro-capitalist union leaders, we showed the potential power of the dictatorship of the working class. Communist revolution relies on the might of a united international working class, smashing the bosses’ repressive government apparatus. “Let the bosses tremble at the power of the working class” our leaflet ended.
“I’m Not Driving That Truck Under Any Flag”
In another discussion an anti-communist tried to portray the dictatorship of the working class as the dictatorship over the working class. He pointed to the reactionary, often pro-Nazi, people that fled the USSR after World War II, portraying them as heroes. Older CHALLENGE readers were having none of it. They remember the ex-Nazis that they were forced to work with years ago. “Those bastards would openly celebrate Hitler’s birthday at work, wearing Nazi uniforms, and the company allowed them to,” said an irate machine operator. Besides, they were the biggest kiss-asses in the shop.
This led to a discussion on how fascism relies on extreme racism and nationalism. This discussion inspired another reader to relate a small but significant struggle he had against flag waving. A small U.S. flag was placed on top of the delivery truck his area uses. Every time he saw it, he would throw it to the ground. Finally, he had enough. He gathered his shop-mates around and delivered an ultimatum. “I’m not driving that truck under any flag.” The flag hasn’t been seen since.
We ended with an old story from WWII. A PLP veteran was with the U.S. Army in a small town in Italy when the war ended. The locals got a ragtag band together to celebrate. He thought they would play the Italian national anthem. Instead they broke into The (communist) International. Red flags of revolution were everywhere — Now there’s a flag you can drive a truck under!
Some of the participants of this last discussion will organize continued discussions in various cities to accommodate Boeing’s far-flung workforce while we are on strike. Either way, we are filling the [non] workday with intense struggles over revolutionary ideas.J
We need your support! Send letters of solidarity and donations to help produce leaflets and CHALLENGES to Boeing Strikers C/O PLP Box 808, Brooklyn, 11202.
Job Security, Outsourcing Big Strike Issues
“They say you can’t have job security these days,” said IAM District President Wroblewski at recent union meetings, referring to one of the most contentious strike issues, “And I agree with them.” He then pleaded for a break from worrying about this during the next three years (the duration of any new contract signed after the strike).
The union has confined the debate to facilities maintenance, parts delivery inside the plants, and bidding to undercut proposed manufacturing outsourcing. The latter will accelerate the racist trend to a low-wage union workforce within the Boeing plants: what has become known as the “Kick Your Kids to the Kurb (KKK)” contract.
The union is reportedly looking for language that is similar to that among GE unions. What a joke! GE is known as the Gone Elsewhere, having outsourced more jobs than anyone.
It’s true under capitalism workers have as much security as a pig at a BBQ. That’s why we can’t limit the debate to what’s possible under this system. Production for profit pits not only nation against nation and company against company, but also worker against worker. Communism, on the other hand, produces for the needs of our class. Under communism we welcome extra hands. We would use the help to increase production to support the revolutionary aspirations of our international brothers and sisters, dedicate more of our time to developing political leadership among our fellow workers or shorten the workday.
It’s no accident that it is only our Party that has produced letters of support from subcontractor workers. Uniting with these super-exploited workers will build the kind of anti-racist, international solidarity that can really advance the struggle and pave the path to revolution.