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Boeing Contract Choice: Corporate Arrogance or Union Fantasy

Stocks in this article: BA

I have to laugh when I hear people discredit the labor movement, saying it has nothing to do with them and no longer has any relevance to their lives. Most of these people have lost or never had defined benefit pension plans, and their 401K retirement plans are often tied, by their choice, to the stock market.

For now, Boeing workers, IAM members at United Airlines (UAL) and Teamsters at UPS (UPS) -- which like Boeing is part of a global duopoly providing an essential product -- still have defined benefit pension plans. But they are outliers.

Last month marked the death of Charlie Bryan, who was president of IAM District 100, which represented about 10,000 Eastern Air Lines workers. Bryan led a 1989 strike that concluded in 1991, when Eastern shut down. In some ways, Bryan was a hero, fighting to preserve his members' standard of living. But also he was fighting history, because he sought to preserve work rules and pay levels that history had passed by.

Similarly, Wroblewski wants to keep defined benefit pension plans, which sadly are going away no matter what he does, and to trade off future Seattle-area jobs to preserve them, in a world where most people with good jobs are lucky to have them.

The battle may be heroic. The strategy is doomed.

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.


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