IAM To Boeing: 'It's The Outsourcing, Stupid'
Given the ever-slackening US economy and mass layoffs at several
airlines and manufacturers, one would think now wouldn't be the
best time for labor unions to take a hard line in demanding better
and compensation. For the most part, you'd be right... but workers
on strike at Boeing say they have the power.
As we enter the second week of
a strike at the American planemaker by some 27,000
workers represented by the International Association
of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, so far there's little sign
either side will budge in their efforts. IAM representatives tell
The Associated Press the union is prepared to go the distance in
forcing Boeing to sweeten its previous contract offers.
Considering Boeing's record $4.1 billion profit last year, IAM
President Tom Buffenbarger says the planemaker can indeed afford to
reward the people who assemble its planes.
Mark Blondin, chief negotiator for the IAM in talks with Boeing,
adds other unions are watching the IAM strike for pointers on how
to take a hard line in labor talks... and most are supportive of
IAM's efforts, despite the fact machinists are already some of the
best-paid workers in the industry.
In particular, those unions support IAM's efforts to cull
Boeing's increasing reliance on outsourced production to overseas
"I've had nothing but encouragement from other unions," Blondin
said. "[The strike] raises the bar in the community. It's going to
help everybody in this community, if not the country."
Richard Aboulafia, aerospace
analyst for the Teal Group, says the specialized nature of the work
machinists perform for Boeing gives them additional bargaining
clout... as the planemaker cannot produce aircraft without them,
nor can they quickly find qualified replacements.
"This is America's last successful major heavy industry,"
Aboulafia said. "As a result, the workers have a lot more power ...
and they're taking advantage of that power."
That's precisely the problem, counters University of Maryland
international business professor Peter Morici. He says unions are
cutting off their noses to spite their faces, as continued labor
strife will only convince Boeing to send more work overseas, where
labor actions are few and far between.
"This is a good example of why manufacturing is leaving the
country," Morici said. "This is like the UAW in the '50s."
IAM's Buffenbarger maintains the union is working to avoid that
very scenario. "This is the time to secure the future," he said.
"Somebody's got to break the mold of this outsourcing."