Sunday, January 5, 2014

One For The Good Guys

Sometimes, when you're not sure what you're going to do, life hands you a "gimme".

I had no idea what I was going to post this week  until I saw this headline: "Local Labor Influence Takes A Hit".  I clicked the link and Voila!  Problem solved.

On Friday, Boeing machinists narrowly voted to accept the latest offer from the aerospace giant, going against the desires of the leaders of Local 751.  Approval was encouraged by state officials and national labor leaders, in order to keep the jobs (and the tax revenue) in Washington state.  There were 20 other states, most notably Texas and South Carolina, lobbying for Boeing to bring those jobs and set up in their states, promising that Boeing would receive the labor deals it needed to remain competitive. 

These same machinists had voted down a similar offer made in November by 67% before approving this deal by a slim 51%, a margin of about 600 votes out of nearly 24,000 cast.  Apparently, these workers, and the national leaders of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, remembered what happened to the unions at Hostess when they got stubborn and greedy and refused to make concessions and realized that even if they don't get what they want, a job that pays so far above the national median wage is far, far better than no job at all.

The major point in the dispute seems to be pensions.  While not eliminating it's pension programs, Boeing sought to freeze current pensions and move current and future employees into defined contribution, 401k-type retirement plans.  This move was/is decried by some as "greedy" and an unfair exploitation of workers by a company that's making money (i.e., it's "profitable").

The attitude is fairly typical of those with an entitlement mindset.  The workers, under the influence of Progressive leadership, come to believe that the company and it's profits belong rightfully to them.  After all, they argue, they are the one's doing all the hard work.  The "suits" don't do anything to earn their salaries but fly around the world attending pointless conferences, take long $100 lunches, and spend the rest of their time figuring out ways to squeeze more production out of the poor bastard busting his ass working on the line.  Hey, you don't like it?  There's the door.  If working on the line for a 6 figure salary (including benefits) is such a burden, take a walk and let someone else have a chance.  They should be happy things didn't work out the way they did back in the days of Carnegie.  His workers decided they were the rightful owners of his largest steel mill and decided to not only strike for wages, they took over the mill and barricaded the entrances.  This led to the arrival of the Pinkertons and a confrontation that resulted in deaths of many of the workers (Hint: You should never throw rocks at the guys with the guns)

Something these people have forgotten:  IT'S NOT YOUR COMPANY AND IT'S NOT YOUR MONEY!  You are an employee.  You are hired to perform a certain set of tasks for a given wage and benefit package determined by the employer.  You don't have to accept the terms, but you don't have the right to force the employer to accede to your demands for ever greater wages and benefits, something that was largely responsible for the near collapse of the auto industry in Detroit and the city itself.

What I found most illuminating in the reporting on the situation with Boeing in Washington was the people chosen to comment on the deal:

Lynne Dodson, of the Washington State Labor Council said that "It's an indication of just how far Boeing will go.  It's more a reflection of corporate greed than [lack]of union power."  Ah, yes.  "Corporate greed".  Progressive-speak for any company that seeks to keep more of it's own money for it's own use.

Wilson Ferguson, President of a local unit of District 751, "Their fear and intimidation worked."  As opposed to the attempted "fear and intimidation" of threatened action by the union?  Strikes?  Walkouts?  Pickets intimidating Boeing executives?  The pressure brought by the NLRB?  Please. Boeing decided what they were willing to pay and the workers (keep in mind, the labor leaders get paid out of union dues) decided the old maxim "half a loaf is better than none" applied.

Leon Grunberg, a sociology professor at the University of Puget Sound and co-author of the book, "Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers."  bemoaned the fact that the vote showed that "even a strong local is vulnerable" to the demands of a company that's "...doing very well financially."  Translation?  "They can afford to pay workers what they want, so they should."  How is a sociology professor qualified to comment on the financial situation and labor contracts of a billion dollar company like Boeing?

In order to buttress the article further they quote another sociology professor, Jake Rosenfeld, a professor at the University of Washington (coincidentally, he also has a book "What Unions No Longer Do." Maybe this article was just a way for them to promote their books?) who commented, "The very fact that Boeing was making these demands in the first place just has to be seen as discouraging ..."

Yeah, a company trying to come to an agreement with union extortionists in an effort to keep thousands of high-paying jobs in Washington, while at the same time remaining competitive with other giants in the industry, such as Airbus, is discouraging.  They should be happy Boeing's willing to bargain with them in the first place.  In a truly free market, Boeing wouldn't be obligated to spend millions of dollars going through these hoops.  If they could find a location better suited to their needs they'd be free to make their offer to the existing workforce with the understanding that it was "take it or leave it".  [They already know what would happen in that instance.  The NLRB has already interfered in Boeing's business model by threatening them with legal action when they were considering moving production of their new Dreamliner to another state.  It was the opinion of the NLRB that the company had no right to consider moving those jobs out of Washington simply because they couldn't afford the risk of frequent labor strikes shutting down production.  The NLRB said that such a move would violate the worker's rights. (?)]

"Discouraging" or not, these workers have at least guaranteed themselves jobs for the next 8 years.  They will have to start contributing to their own retirement plans, but they retain the current value of the pensions they have already accrued, as well as their healthcare coverage (at least, until Obamacare fully kicks in), something most American workers don't have.  And the Boeing corporation has the labor arrangement it needs to compete globally.  Sure looks like a win-win to me.  And by standing up to the demands of one of the largest labor organizations in the country Boeing has shown other large employers (job creators) that they don't have to cave to excessive labor demands and reduce their competitiveness (and profitability). 

Chalk one up for the good guys.


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