Monday, November 25, 2013

Boeing! DOW Breaks 16,000!

I am amused by the pundits and politicians who rant about the Socialists in government. Mainly because we have an honest-to-ghod self-identified Socialist in government out here, and it looks nothing like the pro-business, too-big-fail, corporate welfare, Wall Street-fluffing breed they seem to have in our capitals, state and national. If those guys are Socialists, then they are doing something very, very wrong.

In any event, one small marker of economy, the cheerleading section from the Dow Jones, continues to surge ahead as the rest of us seem to be picking ourselves off the mat. So that's good, from what I've been told. 

Seattle is doing very well, by the way, as measured by my personal rule-of-thumb measure - how bad traffic is. And by that single-point reference (which is, when you look at it, what the DOW is as well) business is good because traffic is bad. More people are now clogging the concrete arteries on their way to jobs. You'd think that we'd put a bit more money into public transportation, but you would be figuring against how these Supposed Socialists in power really think.

Giving money to public transportation, or public anything, of course, smacks of Socialism, and as such has been studiously avoided in Olympia this past year. Giving money to a massively successful corporation on the chance that they will stay in town, well, that's worth a special session of the state legislature. Said special session doled out the largest single largest package of bennies ever to keep the semi-hometown team of Boeing producing its new 777x here in the Puget Sound region, as opposed to shipping off the work to other, non-unionized locations.

And when I say single largest package, we're talking about 8.7 Billion with a B. And that is on top of all the other bennies we roll out as we see Boeing continually eye other dance-partners. Oh, despite the fact the aeronautical giant is reducing staff here in the Puget Sound region ANYWAY. And the fact that we've done this dance before and seen plane production go elsewhere anyway.

But Boeing puts out the collections basket and folk line up. The state legislature. The guv. The union at the national/international brotherhood level, who caved to its demand of frozen pensions, no raises, and no guarantees, and recommended the local workers do the same.

And the local union looked at what they were asked to pony up for the promise of the 777x, declared it spinach, and said to hell with it.

And yeah, it was a pretty rotten deal. So rotten that even the pro-business, anti-union Times had to recognize the stench. Of course, now that the machinists have nixed the deal, management gets to cry crocodile tears as it ships stuff to other, poorer, less-uniony parts of the country.

And the Seattle Times now gets to condemn both the unions for costing all this growth, and the politicians for larding out all this pork in the first place. They get to play both sides against the middle. For a more rational view, you have to go the NYTimes to find it. And wow, I don't often say something like THAT too often.

I get the idea that Boeing hates its workers. It is pretty obvious. It moved its HQ to Chicago to get away from them. It tried to farm out its 787 production (labeled by one wit here as the "Dreamsmoker") to a huge number of smaller, cheaper operations. And then had to come back to its Seattle wonks to fix things when these third-party guys confused batteries with hibachis. And despite the fact the Puget Sound continues to produce the lions' share of planes, despite attempts to farm them out elsewhere.

My opinion? I support the local unions on this for doing the right thing. Yes, it may reduce the number of jobs (or reduce the angle of the slide as Boeing tries to weasel away from Washington anyway). But my commute sucks enough already - adding more people to the job pool is probably a bad thing. Plus the fact that new airplane interiors are apparently made for Playskool Little People, so its not like I going to be riding comfortably in these new, lowest bidder airliners.

Want me to change my tune, legislature? Sure. Fund public transportation and get a decent roads package through your spending-adverse minds. The cries for austerity are loud right up to the point where a large corporation is involved. Then the gates are thrown wide on the shadow of a promise that a company seeking to save every nickel will not try to welsh on the deal. And if you MUST insist on giving money to aerospace giants, let's invite Airbus over to visit every so often.

And for Boeing Execs? Here's the secret to breaking the unions - pay your people in Texas and South Carolina better. No, seriously. Ten years of competitive wages in those areas will raise the tech levels of the work force and make the unions here looks like some ancient dinosaurs. Unions come into being because the management does not deal square with its employees. It is hard to argue about freezing worker pensions when your CEO's own pension went up by $20 Million last year. Practice a little of that corporate wisdom, and you will, long-term, win.

Otherwise, you're looking at coming back to Seattle workforce when your "lowest possible bidder" triple-seven starts getting cranky.

More later,