(Since this article was printed the Boeing contract was voted and approved by about 75% of the workers while about 25 % voted no.)
As we go to press, the company and the union have hashed out a new sellout offer. This is not just betraying Boeing workers. The International Association of Machinists (IAM) and pro-capitalist AFL-CIO misleaders are helping the bosses attack all workers’ wages and conditions.
We need to vote “NO!” and surround the plants with mass picketing to really shut the company down. Today, one worker at our weekly luncheon meeting said, “I’m voting “No” because it will screw the next generation.” All agreed. We must expand our modest Party-led efforts to build striker-subcontractor worker anti-racist, international unity and organize solidarity rallies among our supporters locally and nationally.
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney has attacked our “repeated work stoppages,” inviting the pro-capitalist union mis-leaders to help him “change this dynamic.” They’ve obliged in this sellout. It’s similar to the one we rejected, which sparked this strike initially — except it’s a four-year contract, not the traditional three. (We’ve struck three of the last four contracts.)
Essentially this means a lower wage in the 4th year: normally the biggest increase is up front in the first year, but now what would have been a bigger increase in the first year of the next 3-year contract becomes a smaller one as the 4th year of this contract. For example, pensions increase a scant 2% in the 4th year, not even enough to keep pace with inflation.
New younger workers are attacked the hardest. Starting wages have been frozen for 15 years. Now the offer of a $2.28/hr increase is less than the $3.82/hr advance in the state’s minimum wage over the last 15 years! This contract preserves the same wage increase but over four years, not three. New hires will still make an average of $15/hour in 2012 — if they can get a job at Boeing! The subcontracting regime stays put with a few insignificant face-saving changes in language.
Company-Union Gang-Up Dampens Class Struggle
To win acceptance of this latest contract offer, both the company and the union want to isolate us strikers and wear us down. Both fear any sign we might put our faith in the might of a united working class.
Significantly, the IAM leadership sabotaged any attempt to hold a support rally at Corporate Headquarters in Chicago (see letter page 6). We exposed this treachery to dozens of workers we’ve visited. Every one responded, “That figures!”
WHAT IS SUCCESS?
Given all this, one crucial measure of success is how many strikers and supporters are won to seeing the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party as the indispensable organization of the working class. There are two new Party-led study groups and other CHALLENGE readers who’ve agreed to attend Party club meetings.
This is a product of having organized numbers of rank-and-filers to build unity with subcontractor workers, to request and receive support letters and to speak at meetings of workers and students for the first time. One worker at a check distribution point, upon hearing about the need for this unity, exclaimed, “So it’s not us against them, it’s all of us against the company!”
“I’m new to all this,” said a striking CHALLENGE reader who traveled to Los Angeles to personally give the “thank you” letter he wrote (and helped gather signatures for) to Boeing union and non-union subcontractor workers who the Party has organized to support our strike. “But it seems to me,” he continued, “that you can advance your revolutionary [communist] cause by first educating workers and students like those here about the history and ideas of your movement and through action.
“I can’t speak for all the 27,000 Boeing strikers, but I was impressed by the letters of support from subcontractor workers and was inspired by the response of Los Angeles high school students. I’ve heard how these workers that supported us slave under horrible conditions. The most important thing you can do is advance that struggle here. Pick a factory, any factory! You have enough to fight here to keep you busy for a lifetime!”
Between the two LA meetings involving 85 union and non-union workers and students, black, Latino and white, and a similar support dinner in Chicago, we collected more than enough to pay for our tickets to the LA solidarity event and the continued distribution of over 1,000 CHALLENGES per issue and tens of thousands of communist flyers. Overall, in the strike in Seattle and among the Boeing subcontractors in LA, we’ve distributed over 40,000 PLP flyers and 17,000 CHALLENGEs since the beginning of our industrial summer projects in July.
Local college students, inspired by the emerging anti-racist, international unity between strikers and subcontractor workers, wrote their own leaflets about this outstanding development. They’ve organized through their campus groups to bring students to the picket lines. Internationally, we’ve received more than a dozen support letters (often with donations). Hundreds of rank-and-filers organized by PL’ers have taken the initiative to support us, by-passing the union misleaders.
Our weekly CHALLENGE readers’ luncheon group wrote another “thank you” note to these hundreds who’ve supported us internationally, stressing the need to mobilize the might of a united working class. It advocates mass pickets to shut down the bosses, organizing huge solidarity rallies based on anti-racist unity locally, nationally and worldwide. When we brought this letter to the picket lines for signatures, the overwhelming majority of workers who talked to us signed. We’ve also sent a support letter to the Bronx, NY Stella D’Oro strikers linking their struggle to the anti-racist, international unity we aim to build between subcontractor workers and ourselves.
The Revolutionary Communist PLP: Indispensable Organization Of The Working Class
Boeing CEO McNerney says decent wages, benefits and job guarantees are “unsustainable” in this period of intensified inter-imperialist rivalry exacerbated by “global financial turmoil.” The pro-capitalist union hacks agree by running to support the bosses’ global subcontracting regime. They only want a few “ancillary jobs” to remain unionized (which the new contract offer may not include) so they can stay in business.
Most workers have learned from their own experience not to trust the pro-boss union mis-leadership, condemning them in language we can’t print here. Given the worldwide capitalist economic crisis, some are even questioning the viability of trade union reform, particularly around job security. No organization that is dedicated to preserving capitalism can provide viable answers for our class.
We will need many more Boeing CHALLENGE sellers to maintain the mass character of our paper now evident among strikers. As the economic crisis opens the door, we have to rush in with CHALLENGE and our revolutionary alternative to the bosses’ plans for war, racism and rapidly accelerating attacks on our livelihoods.
A CHALLENGE reader who is joining our study group declared, “You have to know what’s going on in the world and how the world works just to survive these days.” He knows that our Party — through his reading and selling CHALLENGE, through the discussions and organizing at the CHALLENGE readers’ lunch, and through the anti-racist, international solidarity and class struggle we are attempting to build — gives him the tools to survive. As they say, revolution is the only solution. Now that’s worth a lifetime of struggle.J
PLP members took picket signs, leaflets and CHALLENGES to a Boeing plant of UAW members in Long Beach, California. Some said that while they support the Seattle strikers, the IAM leadership “steals jobs from us!”
We told them that all Boeing workers have the same enemy and the same interests. “We aren’t supporting the leadership of the IAM or the UAW. They’re trying to divide you. We’re communists. We’re building unity between Boeing workers in Seattle, Boeing workers in Long Beach, Vought workers, and the subcontractor workers who also work for Boeing.” Most workers were then more than willing to get CHALLENGE and our leaflet which stated “Workers Power is our only Security.” Our signs supported the Boeing strikers and also said “Warmaker Boeing—stop super-exploiting subcontractor workers!” As the Seattle striker said, Long Beach workers, under the same attacks as workers in Seattle, should strike too!
We also held solidarity dinners with Boeing strikers, raising over $700. Subcontractor and other workers, students and teachers vowed to increase our support for the Boeing workers and fight to increase CHALLENGE sales to build communist class consciousness.