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Cash-rich Boeing, SeaTac ruling, resurgent progressives…

Thursday, January 2, 2014




TODAY at The Stand — IAM 751 Solidarity Rally today in Seattle — The rally will be at the IAM 751 Union Hall in Seattle, 9135 15th Pl. South, and all community supporters and members of all unions are encouraged to attend. (Wear your union colors!)

► In the Seattle Times — Boeing’s soaring performance in 2013 — Boeing will close out the year with its shares up nearly 81 percent, by far the biggest gainer among the Dow Jones Industrial Index’s 30 stocks. Orders and the backlog are strong for airliners. The defense sector hasn’t been hit as hard by sequester as many had feared. Its balance sheet is excellent. Earlier this month, Boeing raised its dividend by 50% and announced a $10 billion stock buyback. The dividend alone will mean about $2.19 billion to shareholders next year. (All of which made Machinists wonder why their pensions are a target for such a cash-rich company.)

IAM► In today’s NY Times — Vote on new Boeing contract highlights rift in Machinists’ union — The union’s international president has brushed aside the objections of the local union and ordered a new vote — scheduled for Friday — on a slightly revised version of the previously rejected contract. The dispute highlights a rift within the union, one that reflects the varying priorities of its leadership. Union officials in Washington State want to preserve gains hard won from a company that has surging profits and record plane orders. But the international leadership sees a different threat — the possibility of losing a large manufacturing center and more than 10,000 union jobs to a right-to-work state where it would be difficult to win representation.

► From AP — Machinists chief once called pensions ‘sacred’ — Tom Buffenbarger, the national union chief who has forced a vote on a pension-freezing Boeing contract proposal, once called those retirement plans sacred and derided alternatives as risky.

► From AP — Pension-holders push Boeing Machinists to drop pensions — Machinists in Puget Sound are under pressure to accept a Boeing contract offer that moves them away from pension plans, and much of that pressure is coming from local officials who have that very type of retirement plan.

SPEEA-12► MUST-READ in the Seattle Times — Boeing is overthinking where to build the 777X (by SPEEA President Tom McCarty) — As Boeing approaches the building of the 777X, the company’s managers are again obsessed with driving down labor rates and extracting maximum concessions from state and local governments where the work would be done. What’s lacking? A realistic assessment of the risks associated with selecting a green field for aircraft assembly and the challenge of recruiting and training the required workforce… Boeing is overthinking this. We already know how to do it and we can start tomorrow.

► In the (Everett) Herald — Crunch time for the 777X (editorial) — Everyone feels an absence of respect: The Machinists who already have a contract that runs through 2016; politicians working 24/7 to keep the jobs here (while alienating labor support); and Northwesterners stung by the betrayal of an old friend. Whatever the outcome, the 777X decision rests with Boeing. Washington has the workforce, the infrastructure, the state support, the quality of life. Keep your ring on, Boeing, and stay in the marriage.




seatac-good-jobs-initiative► In the NW Labor Press — Judge strikes down SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage — for airport workers — In a Dec. 27 ruling, a judge struck down SeaTac’s voter-passed $15-an-hour minimum wage for airport workers, but upheld it for hotel and transportation workers outside the airport. The Yes for SeaTac campaign — the coalition of unions, community groups, and churches that crafted the initiative — filed an expedited appeal Dec. 31 to the Washington Supreme Court. For now, about 1,600 hotel and parking lot workers who work within the City of SeaTac get raises to $15 an hour, but an estimated 4,700 baggage handlers, car rental workers, and others who work in the airport itself will have to wait for the results of a legal appeal.

► From AP — Washington’s minimum wage jumps to $9.32 — Washington’s already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage increased to $9.32 an hour on Wednesday. The hourly increase of 13 cents, reflects a change in the consumer price index. Voters approved an initiative in 1998 that requires the state agency to make a cost-of-living adjustment to its minimum wage each year based on the federal consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.




► In today’s News Tribune — State workers may soon shrink deductible — Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration is moving toward adoption of a wellness program for state employees that provides $125 worth of health insurance incentives in 2015 if a worker engages in healthful activities this year.

► In the Columbian — AWB has a new president — As the new president of the Association of Washington Business, Kristofer Johnson succeeds Don Brunell, who retired after leading the Olympia-based organization for 28 years.




boehner-john-2► In today’s NY Times — Boehner is said to back change on immigration — Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months, giving advocates for change new hope that 2014 might be the year that a bitterly divided Congress reaches a political compromise to overhaul the sprawling system.

► In The Hill — Lawmakers vowing to reverse cuts to military pensions face a dilemma — The cut was a core part of budget deal, making it difficult to unwind.

► In today’s NY Times — The campaign for a bigger paycheck (editorial) — Raising the federal minimum wage is good politics and even better economics.

► In the NY Times — Uncle Sam’s sweatshops (editorial) — The American government has pushed retailers like Walmart and Gap to demand better working conditions at factories in the developing world that make their merchandise. But it turns out that the government, which buys more than $1.5 billion of clothes from overseas factories, does not follow its own advice.




IUOE-logo► At NW Labor Press — Operating Engineers rejoin AFL-CIO Building Trades — After nearly eight years since leaving, the International Union of Operating Engineers rejoined the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department on Jan. 1.

► In the Washington Post — States make moves toward paid family leave — On Jan. 1, workers in Rhode Island joined the few in the nation able to, by law, take several weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or to care for a seriously ill relative.

► In the Pittsburgh P-G — Right-to-work push fizzles in Pa. — More than a year after conservatives announced their support, Pennsylvania is no closer to becoming the 25th state to enact a so-called right-to-work law.

► From AP — Retirement impossible, many workers say — Across the U.S., such concerns are common among blue-collar baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Many have jobs that provide paltry pensions or none at all, as many companies have been moving toward less-generous retirement packages in the past decade.




warren-vanityfair► In today’s Washington Post — The resurgent progressives (by E.J. Dionne) — Discussions about entitlements have revolved almost exclusively around the question of how much to cut them. By contrast, progressives such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) say we must begin dealing with a coming retirement crisis fostered by the near disappearance of traditional private pensions.

The resurgent progressives are battling a double standard. They are asking why it is that “populism” is a good thing when it’s invoked by the tea party against “liberal elites” but suddenly a bad thing when it describes efforts to raise the minimum wage and take other steps toward a fairer system of economic rewards.

And here’s why moderates should be cheering them on: When politicians can ignore the questions posed by the left and are pushed to focus almost exclusively on the right’s concerns about “big government” and its unquestioning faith in deregulated markets, the result is immoderate and ultimately impractical policy. To create a real center, you need a real left.


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