In Wichita, at least, common sense still rules the day. Will common courtesy prevail as well?
For weeks now, Boeing
Last year, as you will recall, Boeing profits suffered greatly when it endured a lengthy -- and less civil -- strike called by the 27,000-member International Association of Machinists (IAM).
The IAM, you see, was feeling its oats, and boasting of its ability to cost Boeing $100 million a day in lost business as the strike dragged on. Well, it succeeded, although not to the full tune of $100 million per day.
When all was said and done, nearly two months of idled operations cost Boeing some $1.2 billion in profits forgone, helping to push management to first compromise with IAM workers, then reach a speedy tentative agreement with 21,000 (non-Wichita) SPEEA union members who were gearing up for a strike of their own.
Did the Boeing unions accomplish their goal? Yes and no. IAM succeeded in extracting promises that its members' jobs would be safe from outsourcing, along with pay increases. SPEEA got a bit more money, and a bit less job security. But in the end, this may all have been for naught.
Two months after the IAM strike ended, and just days after Boeing issued its final damage report on the results, the company announced that 10,000 of its workers would be entering the unemployment lines, laid off in an effort to combat rising costs and falling sales brought about in part by the IAM strike. (Nor was Boeing the only casualty. Large suppliers like Honeywell
Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Whether IAM would still have called a strike if it had known the size of the global recession coming down the pike, we'll never know. Fortunately, the SPEEA members in Kansas have had a few extra months to survey the carnage -- and the layoffs and recession-fueled consolidation now spreading to their fellow workers at Boeing rivals General Dynamics
A modest proposal
Fortunately, I doubt they'll need to.
Consider: Although Boeing insists that the offer SPEEA just rejected was its "best and final," Boeing said the very same thing to IAM six months, one strike, and $1.2 billion in lost profit ago. Apparently, when profits are at stake, Boeing's "best and final" terms do not necessarily stay that way.
And while Boeing issued a not-very-veiled threat in the form of a suggestion that: "Our employees recognize the importance of supporting our customers during this very challenging time, and chose not to authorize a strike" (hint, hint), it seems to me that there's some room for compromise here.
Boeing certainly doesn't need additional downtime, just as it's beginning to find its footing again. Meanwhile, according to SPEEA, "the offered contract falls short of those signed with engineers at other work sites." Basically, all the Wichita workers are asking for here is a fair shake -- the same deal that Boeing already agreed to with its employees out West. If Boeing would accede to what sounds like a very reasonable request, everything should work out hunky-dory.
What's the matter with Kansas?
Speaking as a shareholder of a company that's seen 63% of its market cap vaporized over the course of the past year, at least partly in consequence of management's own bungling of the 787 Nightmare Liner project, I have to ask: What's the deal, Boeing? Your employees in Kansas have shown restraint, not following their IAM brethren into the fire. They're asking for no more than what you've already given their peers. Meanwhile, you're still hewing to the tired old "best and final line" -- which you've already proven isn't either.
Seems to me, it's time to stop dickering, and start building planes again.