Past strikes continue to influence Seattle Times editorials

A few years back, in covering the school closure controversy, I once quipped to a local elected official that the real problem with the city’s middle schools was all those damn middle school aged kids. If we could only get rid of all the students, I joked, the schools themselves wouldn’t be half bad, and there would certainly be a helluva lot more equity between them.

But I was joking.

The Seattle Times editorial board apparently is not, when they once again suggest that Boeing would be better off if they could only get rid of all those damn workers. Or something like that.

Past strikes continue to influence Boeing decisions,” the Times headline reads, as the editors, as usual, blame organized labor for all of Boeings’ woes, including its misguided low-wage strategy.

A curious outsider might question the logic of Times editors who relentlessly berate the Machinists Union for costing the region jobs, while showing zero empathy for the workers whose jobs were lost, but it’s not cognitive dissonance that’s reflected in this morning’s headline as much as it is projection. For those of us familiar with the editorial page know full well that it’s Times publisher Frank Blethen’s own PTSD (Post Traumatic Strike Disorder) that has colored his paper’s negative coverage of labor issues ever since 2000’s contentious Newspaper Guild strike.

If Blethen and his editors really cared more about the economic welfare of our region than licking their own bitter wounds, they might have used their waning influence to urge Boeing executives to keep 787 assembly in the hands of the skilled workers who have built the company. Instead, they chose to provide cover to Boeing and it’s South Carolina strategy every step of the way, if not actively cheer them on.

Comments

  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Right now I wouldn’t touch Boeing stock with a 10-foot pole. Management is willing to wreck the company over their childish pique with the union. BA isn’t worth even 10 bucks a share, let alone the current quotation. When a management behaves irrationally, run — don’t walk — away from their stock.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Frank Blethen also has adopted a no-revenues, no-workers, no-survival model for his business.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I don’t think I want to fly on a plastic airplane whose tail was assembled by minimum-wage hillbillies in a right-to-work state. Remember what happened to the passengers aboard that Alaska Air jet with the faulty jackscrew? When the tail goes, all you can do is jump and flap your arms because the plane ain’t gonna make it.

  4. 4

    spews:

    More troubling is that Boeing blames their troubles with the 787 on the IAM. As reported yesterday in Dominic Gates’s front-page story in Blethen’s rag,

    Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx cited strikes in the Puget Sound region as a major factor in the decision. With a second supplier for every part, Boeing potentially could continue producing Dreamliners in South Carolina even if the Machinists went on strike here.

    “Repeated labor disruptions have affected our performance in our customers’ eyes,” Proulx said. “We have to show our customers we can be a reliable supplier to them.” The second production line “has to be able to go on regardless of what’s happening over here,” he added.

    The unions see it differently (and correctly, IMHO). Here’s a quote from the machinists:

    Tom Wroblewski, president of International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751, said Boeing’s move is “another poor decision is a long line of poor decisions on this 787 program.”

    “Which part of that airplane has come in on time or ahead of schedule and at or under cost?” Wroblewski asked rhetorically of the troubled jet program, about 2 ½ years late and billions of dollars over budget.

    “It’s the vertical fin,” he answered. “That’s the piece that’s been designed and engineered and built by Boeing workers here in Puget Sound.

    And the Boeing engineers really nail it:

    Ray Goforth, executive director of the white-collar union at Boeing, the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), said Boeing’s decision to dual source shows the company “has learned the wrong lessons from the debacle of their 787 supply chain.”

    Much of the delay in the jet program is attributable to a paralyzed supply chain. Some suppliers Boeing signed up failed to deliver the needed parts on time or delivered them incomplete.

    “This is Boeing trying the global supply-chain model again,” Goforth said.

    One can simply ignore the irrational anti-union ravings of Frank Blethen. But Boeing actually builds stuff, so their misunderstanding of the reasons for the 787 fubar is extremely troubling.

    And I’m not looking at it only from the standpoint of regional employment. Eventually, travelers may consider choosing to fly in airliners constructed in Everett or Renton or Toulouse, but not in Charleston planes.

  5. 5

    sarge spews:

    Where are the trolls?

    love this:

    “Which part of that airplane has come in on time or ahead of schedule and at or under cost?” Wroblewski asked rhetorically of the troubled jet program, about 2 ½ years late and billions of dollars over budget.

    “It’s the vertical fin,” he answered. “That’s the piece that’s been designed and engineered and built by Boeing workers here in Puget Sound.

  6. 6

    correctnotright spews:

    Boeing shoots, hits self in foot.

    Once again, breaking the union is more important to the management of Boeing than actually building airplanes that work and getting them out on time.

    How pathetic. This management deserves to fail.

  7. 8

    tpn spews:

    Next time an employer says they are going to do something that has adverse action on the employees rest assured– they plan to do it anyhow, and just want to see how much they can rip them off in the way of “concessions” on the way out. The UAW learned this the hard way too. When will management own up to their own mistakes, instead of using the union as a scapegoat? When there is no union, who will the employer then blame?

  8. 10

    ArtFart spews:

    Goldy, your analogy between Boeing and the schools isn’t quite right. It’s still acceptable to think schools are supposed to serve the needs of their students, whereas under new-millenium business “ethics”, workers strictly serve the needs and whims of the company, not the other way around. Similarly, customers are to be viewed merely as repositories of money to be extracted. The concept of any sort of “stewardship” has pretty much gone out the window.

  9. 11

    ArtFart spews:

    @4 This reminds me of when a company I worked for adopted “just-in-time” supply/manufacturing principles, with much chest-puffing and fanfare. In fact, the receiving department held a cute little ceremony when the first “just-in-time” shipment arrived on the dock…and then had to promptly mark it “Return to vendor: wrong parts”.

  10. 12

    LaborGoon spews:

    The question is, when the current Boeing contract expires, and management again proposes to cut the wages of new hires, cut health care benefits and replace the pensions with a 401(k)s — they have before and they will again — what will the Seattle Times and the other hand-wringing Boeing sycophants say?

    The answer: “Boeing workers, bend over for the good of the state. Graciously accept whatever the company offers, because it’s better than losing your job.”

    You see, in their worldview, lower wages and fewer benefits are beside the point. It’s about jobs, any jobs. Not good middle-class jobs.

    All of us pinko Commies who refuse to simply quit our crappy jobs — and instead choose to fight collectively to make them better jobs — well, we just don’t appreciate what we’ve got. After all, lots of people have shitty jobs and they’re damn grateful. So sit down and shut up.

    I would have a lot more respect for the Seattle Times if they would just say that. If they would just abandon the pretense of being an objective observer of labor disputes and just came out and say, “unions are bad and we should get rid of them.” Then, at least, everyone would know what their subscription money is paying for.

  11. 13

    ratcityreprobate spews:

    I used to believe that preservation of the print press was important for a thriving body politic, but with articles like this one, the estate tax editorial the other day, the Washington Post publishing Sarah Palin’s facebook rants as an Op-Ed opinion piece today, I really don’t give a shit anymore. The Seattle Times, WaPo, et. al. can’t go out of business fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

  12. 14

    rhp6033 spews:

    Boeing provides customers with offices near it’s factories so the airline engineers can deal with technical issues with Boeing engineers, and oversee the construction of their aircraft.

    Yesterday I learned that a major customer of Boeing (I probably shouldn’t mention which one) was asked what facilities they wanted to see built for them in Charleston. Their reply? None. They insisted that all their aircraft have final assembly in Seattle and that they take delivery here.

  13. 16

    rhp6033 spews:

    We can fully expect that when the Seattle Times DOES fold, they will write their own obituary, and blame it all on the unions and Google. There won’t be any mention of the various bad business decisions, such as purchasing other New England newspapers who’s fate was even worse than their own), or cutting back on original local content in favor of cheaper wire-service copy that every other paper and news website is also printing.

  14. 17

    ArtFart spews:

    @14 One thing the Times saw fit to report this morning was that United has placed a rather large order for Airbus planes in preference to 777’s. Whereas they do have Dreamliners on order (whenever they’re actually available) this is United’s first departure from the use of Boeing aircraft since the early years of the Jet Age.

    There’s a real irony, which the wet-behind-the-ears reporter who wrote the piece might not have even been aware of, in that United used to be “Boeing Airways”, started in Boise to fly the mail over the mountains. Their original hangar is part of the present-day terminal.

  15. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 “All of us pinko Commies who refuse to simply quit our crappy jobs”

    Not me! I’m a capitalist who couldn’t quit his job fast enough! Now I’m paid for not working, and the IRS gives me a 2/3rds discount on my taxes for sitting on my fat rabbit ass in front of a computer flipping stocks instead of doing something productive.

  16. 20

    spews:

    The outsource has worked so well for 787 that they are going all out on a failed plan.

    I an convinced that the folks that are the deciders have little understanding of how those parts that are made inside the company are actually made.
    Mr. Post-it should go back to 3M.

  17. 21

    lebowski spews:

    @3…..hey stupid Goebbels Rabbit, the maintenance personel at Alaska Airlines who worked on that jackscrew before the crash were UNION employees.

    Care to make yourself look even more pathetic next time??

    leave it to the inept Goebbels Rabbit to ONCE AGAIN use a tragedy and morph it into some stupid political statement.

    owned.

  18. 22

    rhp6033 spews:

    Art @ 17: Well, the Times piece is kind of “bending the angle” on that story, a bit. It’s not that United is choosing an Airbus A350 over the 777. They are buying 25 Boeing 787’s, and 25 slighly larger Airbus A350WXB, which will not quite as large as a 777. (Of course, we don’t really know – the A350WXB is just a “vision” in Aerbus’ mind, right now).

    Those of us in the Aerospace industry are scratching our heads at this one. The logistics costs of having two different manufacturers of planes with overlapping capabilities is such a fundamental error in airline management that it’s got quite a few people puzzled.

    Our best guess is that United is, in effect, buying insurance against one program or the other not succedding, and counting on inserting liberal cancellation clauses to allow them to back out of one or the other orders before it comes time for them to commit.

    Of course, it IS true that current management will be long gone before anybody pays the price for this decision. Whether the current airline as a whole will be around is an open question, as well.

    By the way, there was an article a year or so ago whereby the author named United as “The Worst Airline… Ever”. He named off the series of terrible management decisions over the last ten or fifteen years, including forcing the pilots and crew to take huge pay cuts, then announcing huge bonuses to management as a reward for coercing the unions into accepting the pay cuts “for the good of the airline”.

    Of course, that little tactic ensured United a decade of labor hostility. In subsequent years, management would go before the press, scratch their heads, and try to say with a straight face “we just don’t understand why the unions can’t accept that they have to cut even more pay and benefits if the airline is going to survive…” Even the press reporters couldn’t help but laugh in their face at that one….

  19. 23

    SS50 spews:

    Reagan busted the PATCO strike in 1981. Since then workers have been at an increasing disadvantage. Wages no longer increase with productivity, opening up large gaps in family income between the top 1% and the rest of us.

    Workers are also customers.

    I remember a work package going from Boeing to China. One of the workers losing his job said, “the workers who get this won’t be buying many airplane tickets …”

    In the long run, consumption can not rise faster than workers’ incomes.

  20. 24

    Mr. X spews:

    Past strikes do indeed still influence Times editorials – but I’m thinking of the ones that Frank Blethen Sr. Sr. Sr. helped bust in 1900 or something like that. The Blethen Family Times hasn’t budged an inch on labor issues since.

  21. 25

    Doug Kite spews:

    The Blethen group has never got over the fact that their “own” as in “we own you workers” struck them a few years back. They vent on the IAM to the point of being ridiculous. Why not have the Boeing Negotiators(pathetic) write your op-ed and sign it, then get an IAM response? Much easier for Boeing to pimp out the Blethen clan (who never had to work for a living)I suppose…

  22. 26

    dewey spews:

    If Boeing could remember what it takes to get an Air plane out on time with some pride. It Takes a little less self pride and Corprate greed to make a secsesful business to succeed. Remember who really does know how to biuld a quality and 98% reliable plane. Good luck Boeing with your arrogants and greed to fool your share holders and valuable World wide Customers . Who all Union Workers appretiate!!!! Love You customers . Hate Boeing corperate decisions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!