Tag Archives: Boeing workers

Confront Aerospace Layoffs, Pension Theft with Red-Led Class Struggle

SEATTLE, WA, January 26 — “Don’t you think we ought to do something about that [the scab parts]?” asked a machinist at the last union meeting. Machinist union members had been on strike for the past 17 weeks at the Vought aerospace subcontractor factory in Nashville, Tenn. Within days of walking out, the company brought busloads of scabs into the plant, escorted by armed cops. Tom Wroblewski, IAM District 751 president at Boeing, had just admitted that the struck plant was shipping scab parts to our factories in the Puget Sound. After hemming and hawing, Wroblewski finally offered a pathetic dodge. “We stand ready to help [the strikers],” he declared.

Others demanded the union quit “standing around” and start publicizing the Vought strike in our local union newspaper. “Our members don’t even know about all this,” confided a shop steward and CHALLENGE reader to one of our comrades.

Unfortunately, time ran out for these strikers (and eventually will for us as well if we don’t start organizing class solidarity). Faced with a threat to replace the 1,000 strikers with permanent scabs and the isolation perpetuated by the IAM under the useless slogan “we stand ready to help,” the Vought strikers accepted the company’s final offer soon after our meeting here. Every worker with less than 16 years will no longer accumulate pension benefits, but will have to survive on an increasingly shaky 401(k).

Union ‘Leader’ Hopes For ‘Labor Peace’

Wroblewski began this meeting hoping that the coming year would not be as “eventful” as the last, which saw an eight-week strike. Shop steward after shop steward quickly challenged this notion.

As well as calling for real solidarity with the Nashville strikers, they blasted the union for its silence about rumored layoffs. The company has since officially announced the elimination of 4,500 positions in commercial aerospace.

“We told you,” said one facilities steward, “that the contract language would not protect facilities maintenance jobs. All the company had to do was cite the economy instead of subcontractors and that’s exactly what they did.” Despite the fact that  Boeing has yet to lower production quotas, some facilities maintenance crews have been cut by 50%.

“Didn’t we tell you when we were trying to sell the contract that the new language would save 2,200 facilities and related jobs,” he answered. “Well, if you heard that, so did the company, so they must have known what we expected. Now it’s up to the company to ‘do the right thing.’” Was this guy born yesterday?!

Class Struggle Building For Revolution Our Only Hope

CHALLENGE readers have been discussing the bosses’ worldwide economic crisis. We agreed that the crisis has “upped the ante.” For example, this union meeting made it even clearer that we can’t rely on “contract language” to protect us from the bosses’ attacks.

Many still cling to the hope that Obama will save our skins, but even he’s announced his intention to go after Medicare and Social Security. Cuts in these two programs are racist since black and Latino retirees are more dependent on these government programs. Like all racist attacks, they end up hurting the whole working class.

The union’s reliance on contracts and Democratic Party politics is a failed strategy. Every layoff, foreclosure, theft of our pensions and medical care must be met with revolutionary, anti-racist class-conscious struggle. Strikes, big and small wildcats, shop walkouts and sit-ins, and increased circulation of the revolutionary communist CHALLENGE newspaper are among the most effective ways to meet these attacks.

This is no doubt a tall order. Only the slow but intensified class struggle on the job and for revolutionary communist ideas among our fellow workers, centered in activist readers groups, will prepare the ground. Keeping our eye on the revolutionary ball will eventually produce the numbers of communists we need to end the bosses’ capitalist nightmare once and for all.

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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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On wednesday at 6pm IAM members went in to vote on the contract. By 7:30pm the IAM leadership had ordered all the picket signs to be locked up. At 9:30 after the results were read (80% against the contract, 87% to strike) Local union reps Blondin and Wroblowski told the members at the union hall they weren’t going to go on strike. People started booing and yelling “sell-out!” The union had provided the vote counters with fried chicken and soda so after the booing began people started throwing chicken bones and soda bottles at Wroblowski and Blondin. The shop stewards who were assigned to be their security detail told them to run. They ran to their office and locked themselves in. They then sent out the PR person thinking that since she was a young attractive woman she would receive better treatment. Wrong! She enjoyed a rain of chicken bones and had to run away while the union hall was torn apart. Meanwhile Wroblowski and Blondin escaped to the airport to fly off to Disney World in order to engage in closed door negotiations with the IAM President, Governor Gregoire, a federal mediator, and the Boeing reps. It was apparently on Gregoire’s order that the strike was postponed. These pics are from this meeting.

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Over 27,000 Boeing workers are on strike against one of the biggest and most profitable war contractors in the world. Boeing is flush with cash, having made more that $13 billion in profit in recent years. At the same time, union wages dropped an average of $6/hour between 2006 and 2008, thanks to a two-tier wage system agreed to in prior contracts. Union wages will continue to slide as nearly 50% of the highest paid workers become eligible to retire during the life of our next contract.

Boeing wants aerospace workers to suffer the same fate as our brothers and sisters in auto, steel and other industries. They want to cut wages, health care and pensions, and a free hand to send more work to low-wage non-union shops. The bosses, with the help of the auto and steel union leaders, were able to get away with these brutal attacks because they were losing money and markets. But Boeing is one fat cat, with billions in profits, backlogged orders and a steady stream of new Pentagon contracts.

Global capitalist competition (imperialism) is causing the attacks on industrial workers, particularly younger, newer black, Latin and immigrant workers. The rise of Russia and China as industrial and military powers gives new urgency for U.S. bosses to retool and cut costs. The racist super-exploitation of millions of non-union sub-contract workers in low-wage sweatshops from Alabama to southern California is changing the face of the aerospace industry.

As negotiations dragged on this past month, “Rolling Thunder” shook the plants, as workers banged their tools making a deafening sound, every hour on the hour. Boeing workers forced the IAM union leaders to call this strike. Now we must lead it as well.

The battle for the hearts and minds of Boeing workers is as sharp as the sound of Rolling Thunder. The pro-capitalist union leaders have nothing to offer but loyalty to a system bent on war, racism and terror, no matter who lives in the White House.

On the other hand, PLP has helped lead mass rebellions in Boeing plants, organizing mass marches and protest rallies as part of class struggle against the bosses and their imperialist plans for the aerospace industry. We have no illusions that militant activity alone can reverse the sharpening attacks on our class. Only communist revolution will do that. We built this factory with our labor, and the working class should control it!

The road to revolution can be paved in this strike. For this to happen, more Boeing workers, on strike in Seattle or in LA sweatshops, must be guided by revolutionary communist class-consciousness and a mass international PLP. The main measure of victory will be how well we do in moving in that direction.

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From California to Seattle: Volunteers Help Connect Boeing Workers

LOS ANGELES — “I have the paper,” said a Boeing worker as he drove from the parking lot, “but I just wanted to stop and thank you for being here.”

During shift change at this plant that builds military planes, students and teachers from the PLP Summer Project here distributed 120 copies of CHALLENGE and 500 leaflets, a reprint of the CHALLENGE article, “Bosses’ Imperialist Dogfight Sets Stage for Boeing Contract Fight.”

Men and women, younger and older, black, Latin, Asian and white workers took the literature. They were especially interested in the article since it was written by Boeing workers in Seattle.

Another worker exited his car to tell us that the bosses in his section had called a meeting earlier today “to get out misinformation about the contract fight.”  He thought they were trying to use SoCal Boeing workers as pawns to pressure Boeing workers “up north” to settle on the bosses’ terms.

One guy took a bunch of leaflets to distribute in the plant — “I’m on the inside!” he said.  Later he came out to say, “I’ve hooked you up!”

A Summer Project volunteer introduced CHALLENGE to another worker as “a communist paper” and he took it eagerly. This led to a long conversation about racism, exploitation and fighting back.  The volunteer then asked, “Do you have a friend who thinks like you do, who might also like a paper?” When the worker said he had, the volunteer asked, “How many friends like that do you have?”  The worker took five papers and gave her contact information to stay in touch with the Party.

Conversations were difficult because many workers were in cars and also because — as one volunteer noted — “these people looked more tired than anyone I’ve ever seen come out of work.” Almost nobody was hostile or even unfriendly. A student leafleting for the first time at such a plant, felt it was “good practice” but also said a discussion of the leaflet before-hand would have better prepared us for conversations.

This was a modest, very inspiring example of how PLP can unite workers around our newspaper and our Party.  Through the leaflet and the work of the Summer Project, SoCal Boeing workers now have a connection to Boeing workers in Seattle.

We’ll try to strengthen this connection by continuing to come to Boeing, following up our contacts, making more contacts and building ties with the anti-capitalist workers who are reading our literature.  We’ll try to win some to join PLP and build it “on the inside.”

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Hacks’ Phony ‘Human Rights’ Unit Kills Jena 6 Resolution

Seattle, WA — After nearly two months of struggle at various International Association of Machinists (IAM) union meetings and conferences, our rank-and-file Jena 6 support resolution was finally kicked upstairs to the District Human Rights committee. Last week, the Business Representative chairman informed us the committee decided to kill it. “If we supported this then anybody could come forward with his or her issues,” he warned.

“That would be horrible” was the sarcastic reaction of many members on the shop floor. Then more serious discussions began. What is the purpose of these human rights committees anyway?

The network of Human Rights committees was started in the mid-’70s. At the time, the union was flooded with new younger members just back from the Vietnam War, with experience in anti-racist rebellions and familiarity with left-wing politics. These new members expected action against racism both on the job and in society at large. The leadership answered with a human rights committee in every local. Carefully controlled by the reactionary leadership, these committees served as the hacks’ lightning rods. They diverted the efforts of honest anti-racists from militant class struggle into dead-end bureaucracy.

In our district, the activity of this committee is also driven by rank-and-file anti-racist struggle. But, once again, the misleadership used this committee to give an appearance of “diversity” while short-circuiting class struggle. The leadership even decided to cover their ass with diversity training for all union officers. Unfortunately, the International runs these classes. As explained by an International officer, diversity training is important to organizing. Their organizing slogan is “Defending Our Freedom; Defending Our Jobs.” Their logo features a U.S. flag and an armed soldier.

The picture is complete. The International’s version of Human Rights is multi-racial support for racist U.S. imperialism.

Communism: The Only Answer To Bosses’ Racism

Under communism the PLP would bring workers into the street to battle racists. Racism hurts all workers; communism requires anti-racist working-class consciousness and unity. In order to ensure the victory of the revolution, we must muster our class’s fighting might.

Today, with pro-capitalist unions, we have to expose the misleaders’ phony Human Rights committees. In that sense, being attacked by the hacks in this struggle has not been such a bad thing. Our CHALLENGE sales have increased a bit as we have worked hard to bring communist ideas to our fellow workers who have lost faith in pro-capitalist unions. We now have to turn those sales into bigger CHALLENGE networks and new Party members.

Where possible, we should encourage honest workers to join these misleaders’ committees. They should have no illusions about how far the hacks will let these committees mobilize rank-and-file class struggle. On the other hand, by pushing just such action, we can more profoundly expose the pro-boss union leadership.

As these struggles ensue, the revolutionary alternative will become more meaningful when we find ways to emphasize our communist politics.

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Support for ‘Jena 6’ Puts Union Lackeys on Spot

SEATTLE, WA. Nov. 9 — “When you guys write your next article,” demanded a Machinist, “make sure you tell everyone that the union holds these conferences [sponsored by human rights and women’s committees] to give the appearance of doing something, not to do something!”

Like many Boeing workers, she drew this conclusion after watching the mis-leadership move the ‘Jena 6’ support resolution (see CHALLENGE, 10/13) from committee to committee, trying to stay one step ahead of irate, anti-racist rank-and-filers. At this writing the resolution has been kicked upstairs to the district human rights committee after three different struggles at various union meetings and conferences over the last month. It’s like the children’s game, “Where’s Waldo.”

Meanwhile, some union officials have changed their tune. For the first time any of us can remember, some are admitting that the union must deal with issues like anti-black and anti-immigrant racism. They cynically blame “backward” members for the roadblocks they themselves have erected over the years.

Of course, none of this has stopped the top leadership from calling the resolution-backers “troublemakers.” In fact, some lower-level officials have complained about the District President’s vindictiveness when he demands that no official talk to any in the opposition.

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Back Jena 6 in Union and in Boeing, Subcontractor Plants

SEATTLE, WA — “It has to be brought to light,” insisted a white Boeing machinist as more than a dozen union members — black, Latin and white — prepared an anti-racist resolution to support the Jena 6. “I was just talking with my son about the way high schools are organized. Racism is everywhere.” The resolution now sits in the union’s executive board, but the struggle continues on the shop floor.

Before we entered the meeting, we knew we were in for a fight. We were not disappointed!

One low-level official described how he would shake his head at the roadblocks the union mis-leaders put up anytime our left-led, rank-and-file group raised racism. (He actively supported anti-racists during the battle to get the union to participate in last year’s May Day March calling for international unity.) “How can you run an organization like that!” he bemoaned.

Even as the resolution was tabled until next month’s meeting, debates broke out throughout the hall and in the corridors outside. “I don’t want to be a jerk, but what has this to do with the union?” asked one. We replied that anti-racism was crucial to answering the economic and political attacks on our members, like racist subcontracting. We pointed to the parts of the resolution calling for anti-racist, multi-racial solidarity in the upcoming contract struggle. The question of the class necessity of anti-racism was front and center at this overwhelmingly white union meeting.

We wanted to do more than engage in this useful debate. We planned beforehand to use this resolution to jump-start struggle on the shop floor. Jena 6 defense collections are now being taken in a number of buildings.

These “shop-floor” collections — in alliance with the collections taken among non-union subcontractor workers — can lead the way. There are many more black and Latin workers in the plants than at union meetings. Still more black and Latin workers suffer super-exploitation at the hand of vicious subcontractors.

CHALLENGE sales and mailings have increased modestly, spreading the revolutionary politics necessary to marshal this multi-racial force. We’re mobilizing to raise this resolution at various other meetings and conferences during the next month. We can measure the lasting value of this battle through the expansion and consolidation of our CHALLENGE networks here and among the subcontractors. Stay tuned!

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