SEATTLE, November 23 — The ink has yet to dry on the new Boeing contract, but the bosses are already waging class war against aerospace workers. In the process, the bosses are making it clearer than ever that workers can win this war only with a revolution for communism.
Within days of returning to work, the company told Facilities Maintenance workers it planned to cut the workforce 10%, using outside contractors to do the work more cheaply. Commercial Chief Carson implied layoffs would start for the rest of us by the end of next year and now Boeing announced 800 layoffs at its Witchata plant. So much for job security! But the sharpest attacks were reserved for subcontractors.
As reported in CHALLENGE, 1,000 Vought subcontractor workers in Nashville, Tenn. struck a few weeks after we did. These Boeing subcontractors soon had to face busloads of scabs, escorted into the plants by local cops. Last week, the union got the Federal Mediator to resume talks with the company. They quickly fell apart when company negotiators arrived with armed guards.
In South Carolina’s Vought plant, which makes the 787 Dreamliner’s rear fuselage, 240 workers joined the International Association of Machinists (IAM) over a year ago. This was touted as a huge victory for unionism in the largely non-union southern aerospace corridor. But after a year the union had still not ratified a contract.
Not wanting negotiations to drag on past the first anniversary (when the company could call for a new certification vote), IAM Grand Lodge Representative Joe Greaser called an “emergency meeting” for 4 PM Friday, November 7. Few workers knew about it.
Later, Greaser announced 92% of the membership had accepted the new contract. He failed to mention that only 13 workers showed up, according to quality inspector Paul Gaudrault, who was the sole dissenting vote.
Vought was “surprised to learn that its employees apparently ratified a contract that was not its final offer.” The workers were furious.
Mechanic Pam DeGarmo said the 1½% annual guaranteed wage increase wouldn’t even cover the new union dues and inflation. About 200 workers will be laid off temporarily because of the two-month strike at the Puget Sound plants. Gaudrault said some of his fellow workers are thinking about not returning “because the contract is so horrible.”
The union leadership here refuses to talk about these outbreaks of class struggle — and these workers are in the same union! “They [the union misleaders] are more than willing to complain about the poor fate of 751 [our District Lodge],” declared a member of our CHALLENGE readers group, “but they won’t talk about others. We’re all part of the working class!” CHALLENGE readers here plan to fight for a more class-conscious response in the union and among workers on the floor.
Had there been CHALLENGE readers groups in South Carolina, like those being consolidated in Seattle, they could have mobilized workers nationwide to back this “watershed” organizing effort; led solidarity rallies and picketing; and organized illegal strikes to fight the company’s terms.
Most importantly, these fight-backs could have been turned into schools for communism with large sales of our paper and a struggle to bring communist ideas to life. Such fight-backs alone can’t solve capitalism’s crises of overproduction. The attacks, like those on autoworkers, can only sharpen. Ultimately, the rivalry among the world’s imperialists will lead to world war. CHALLENGE readers groups can advance the struggle to help turn this into class war, with communist revolution.