SEATTLE, WA, October 14 — The six-week strike by 27,000 Machinists against Boeing looks as intractable as ever after talks between the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and the company broke down, just a day after they resumed. There is tremendous anger among the rank and file who are holding the line in a very solid strike. Financial problems are weighing heavily on many as the worldwide capitalist financial meltdown forces the realization of how serious this struggle has become.
It’s reaching a point among some workers where discussion of revolution becomes much more logical. This was revealed in how workers answer the union hacks’ red-baiting. When the misleaders see CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets being handed out, they say, “we don’t want that crap here,” to which a worker retorted right in front of the sellouts, “I read that paper, give one here!” Discussion of revolution follows. The hacks end up being isolated.
The latest deal-breaker involved outsourcing jobs of workers who deliver parts to the assembly line. Mobilizing the might of a united working class is the only way to break through this logjam.
The union agreed to allow suppliers to enter Boeing plants and deliver their parts to receiving areas beside the assembly line, work now performed by IAM members. The union insists, however, that those jobs — inventorying, tracking and dispersing these parts — remain in the IAM, now and in the future.
The company discussed protecting current IAM members in these categories from layoffs during the three-year life of the contract, but refused to guarantee these 2,000 positions would remain as union jobs over the long haul.
“Once we work out this ‘job security’ stuff, all the rest will fall into place,” said international aerospace coordinator and head negotiator Mark Blondin. But don’t hold your breath; his definition of job security and any real-world security are miles apart.
CEO Is Serious About Fascist Economic Regime
These latest negotiations began as Boeing CEO James McNerney outlined his vision of corporate fascism in the now infamous “Monday memo” issued last week. Citing the “ongoing turmoil in the financial markets,” this three-page internal letter mirrors the U.S ruling class’ plan to re-industrialize through racist super-exploitation in the subcontractor factories. When he talks about “flexibility to run their business in the face of intense global competition,” he means using these racist attacks on subcontractor workers as leverage to attack employees in the traditional union plants as well.
He “see[s] tremendous pressure coming from ” competitors like Airbus and emerging aerospace powers like Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and, in particular, China. He then attacked our “track record of repeated [strikes],” vowing to “change this dynamic.”
“U.S. auto companies, for one, fatally wounded themselves by promising unsustainable wage and benefit levels…and job guarantees,” he continues. Explaining why the company cut off negotiations, Boeing spokesman, Tim Healy, put it even more bluntly. “No company can guarantee jobs,” he admitted. In other words, a decent life under capitalism is unsustainable. A system that can’t sustain a decent life doesn’t deserve to continue.
McNerney failed to mention that his buddy on the Boeing Board, Edward Liddy, just got an additional $35 billion from the Feds, on top of $85 billion in the last two weeks, to rescue the insurance giant AIG from its speculative excesses. Nothing the strikers are asking for even approaches this sum. The joke on the picket lines is that we should change our name to AIG. Then the bosses would throw money at us, instead of trying to starve us into submission.
The pro-capitalist union leaders’ answer to McNerney’s memo was pathetic. They scurried to Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Scott Carson to reaffirm their support of the company’s global subcontracting regime. They pleaded for a few “ancillary [related] jobs at local factories” to remain in the IAM. Even throwing our class brothers and sisters in the subcontractors to the wolves doesn’t seem enough to keep these class collaborators in business.
Communist Ideas: The Alternative To Fascist Capitulation
In stark contrast to the company’s fascism and the union’s capitulation, stands Progressive Labor Party-led organizing and literature. On average, more than a thousand strikers have read CHALLENGE every issue throughout this strike. We’ve distributed thousands of additional Party leaflets advocating mobilizing the united might of the working class. The latest called for anti-racist, international unity with subcontractor workers, mass picket lines and production for need under communism as the only real-world answer to the bosses’ divide-and-conquer strategy. “Workers’ power is our only security,” it declared.
A relatively smaller group of strikers who regularly read CHALLENGE have met every week throughout the strike to put these ideas into practice. Some sell the paper as well; more should! We have scheduled dinners during and after the strike (whenever that is) aimed at asking strikers and supporters throughout the city to buy subscriptions to CHALLENGE, and join PLP.
The mass sales and distribution of communist literature — and the mostly positive response of strikers — have inspired our friends at these meetings to have a more bold approach to organizing their fellow strikers around anti-racist unity (not to mention, giving the sellouts fits!).
One reader wrote a “thank you” note to L.A. subcontractor workers who have supported our strike. Building on the Party’s success distributing CHALLENGE, he organized a small group of strikers to “hit” the strike-check distribution centers to publicly get signatures on it. The hacks backed off as friends and strangers alike signed.
It inspired us all to see our friends — who had never done anything like this before — develop convincing arguments to win their fellow strikers to this modest show of anti-racist working-class unity. Eventually we hope to personally present this “thank you” to subcontractor workers.
Last week, these CHALLENGE readers collectively prepared an answer to McNerney’s vision of corporate fascism — which really proved the validity of PLP’s politics — to be posted on the internet. This week we are discussing how to expand our modest attempts at class solidarity to industrial factories nation-wide. The situation calls for mass picketing, which could really up the ante. There is talk of going to other local unions and student groups, not only for support resolutions but for other workers and students to join the picket lines, as well as to force the union to organize such mass action.
Modest as these efforts are, they represent the only way forward. The company and the union misleaders are thinking about the long haul, not just the life of this three-year contract. So, too, do those of us more dedicated to the revolutionary potential of our class, with the communist vision of eliminating this profit system.