Tag Archives: Boeing Strike

Boeing Sellout: An Attack on All Workers; REJECT IT!

(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!”
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

LA support
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.

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H.S. Students Support Boeing Strikers

Dear Boeing Strikers,
We are a group of students in Los Angeles who read about your strike in CHALLENGE. The following are statements from some of  us:

* A strike can make a difference. As the daughter of a working-class family, I know the struggles and hardship the working class goes through on a day to day basis. I know that the strike will be successful due to the fact that workers are the ones who make this world. All the wealth that the bosses have comes from the working class; we create their profits. If the workers go on strike, the bosses aren’t making any money.
* It is important that this article talked about unity. Our class, the working class, is strongest when all of us — union and non-union alike — are lined up together against our common enemies.
* I learned about the important role of workers who make airplanes; especially war planes. It’s good that we have the power to stop making airplanes. If we want to stop the war, you guys are really important.
* Unity among workers — citizens and non citizens, students, and every single person who belongs to the working class — is important. We are all struggling to get what we need, but if we don’t unite, there’s no point. We want to end the bosses’ rule because in one way or another, workers are being exploited. Here in California we have a lot of immigrant workers who get paid less than many others.
* It’s an inspiration to me as a working class comrade to see all of you out there on the front line everyday in unity, side by side, fighting back. I just want to say on behalf of the youth of LA, you have all of our support. Tough times are ahead. I just hope you all can keep your chins up and fists in the air. We all can win this fight and will, sooner or later. Many of the bosses will try to put you down and divide the workers, but if you all keep the unity, you are a strong force. Keep up the struggle.

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Union Sellouts in Bed with Boeing: WORKERS’ POWER IS OUR ONLY FUTURE

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.

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Two Day Rebellion Leads To Boeing Strike


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.

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