Boeing work stoppage: Drone strike
Repairs on the grounded Boeing Dreamliner 787 as well as development of future military drones and aerospace and other important defense systems could be delayed or halted by a work stoppage by the 23,000 Boeing workers, led by a veteran of the “Battle of Seattle” and a man whose 1990s online magazine was carried by Marxist listservs.
“The negotiation teams and the bargaining unit councils are all recommending that the members reject this contract and grant strike authority,” said Raymond R. Goforth, a labor attorney, who started with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. The ongoing contract dispute, threatens the development of new drones, such as the “Phantom Eye,” a drone capable of staying in the air for four hours.
The vast majority of the SPEEA workers are centered around Washington State and Utah, where they work on commercial aircraft projects. Boeing’s military aircraft operations are located in California and around St. Louis, Mo., but in the case of a strike by so many engineers and technicians, the whole company would feel the squeeze.
The 23,000-member union voted to reject a company proposal in October.
Then, Goforth said, “These are the most offensive and disrespectful negotiations I’ve ever been part of. It appears they don’t have any intention to reach a deal.”
Who is Goforth?
He is neither and engineer nor a technician. Rather, he trained as a lawyer, though is not a member of the Washington State Bar Association. He was hired by the union to negotiate with Boeing. While engineers at the company average $110,000 per year and technicians average $79,000, Goforth takes home $173,922 in base salary and other compensation, according to federal filings. The union leader joined SPEEA Feb. 4, 2008. But, he is no stranger to turmoil in the Seattle area.
In Nov. 30, 1999, Goforth was part of the massive protest against the World Trade Organization, now called “The Battle of Seattle.” More than 50,000 protesters jammed the streets of the city to disrupt the organization’s meetings. Before it was over, the police arrested roughly 500 protesters and the governor mobilized two battalions of Washington National Guardsmen.
A week after the protest, Goforth wrote in Social Justice E-zine: “We had won and our victory was twofold. We effectively disrupted the work of the WTO, forcing them to consider our agenda. Beyond that, we formed alliances that will carry on beyond the Battle of Seattle.”
There was violence, he said.
“Throughout the day a small group of masked protesters caused sporadic violence smashing of some windows, overturning newspaper vending machines, spray-painting on walls, etc.,” he said. “Much of this was done in full view of the police who took no action to arrest them. While there was the occasional trash dumpster set on fire, the vast majority (99.9%) of protesters were peacefully registering their dissent against the WTO.”
The battle was not just a one-off, he said.
“Looking back on the past week, I predict that here in Seattle the seeds were planted for transnational social justice alliances to begin to tame the excesses of transnational capital,” he said.
“Fifty years from now, the Battle of Seattle may be remembered as the turning point where a more just and equitable global order began,” he said. “What happened is that common people defied the corporate and government elites, and won.”
Besides his celebration of the Battle of Seattle, the man leading the Boeing union wrote a newsletter called “Social Justice” distributed through “Marxjour List,” and other Communist-inspired listservs.
According to home page, The Marxjour List was created to help the cause of Marxism and provide a forum for Marxists to share ideas and information about events.
In the list’s final entry it said, “When we began Marxjour List in February 96 there still were little presence of marxist ideas on the Web. We hoped that Marxjour mailing list and the links it could create would enable us to strengthen the efforts of Marxists who were all too often isolated in their efforts.”
Goforth told Human Events he was at the Battle of Seattle to protest child labor, but he did not participate in any illegal or violent acts.
The connection with Marxjour was coincidental, he said. “Many different listservs used to rebroadcast ‘Social Justice.’”
His resume in 1996 was posted on the “Marxism” listserv hosted by the University of Utah, which was described on the host page as for “Activists and Scholars in the Marxist Tradition.”
In the left, “social justice” is synonymous Communism, according to the website AmericanThinker.org: “In short, social justice is communism. It is rooted in the Marxist idea that the money people make and the property they own do not rightfully belong to the people who make the money and own the property.”
Goforth wrote about his e-zine’s title: “The name Social Justice encompasses the struggles of people everywhere who work for gender equality, democratic government, economic opportunity, intellectual freedom, environmental protection and human rights.”
Now, the largest manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft, including unmanned aircraft known as drones, is looking at a strike by 23,000 of its engineers and technicians-led by union leader who posted his resume on a Marxist listserv and at the least ran on online magazine that devoted Marxists cherished enough to circulate amongst themselves.
A strike by engineers and technicians would come as the company struggles to resolve issues surrounding the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a Jan. 16 order that grounded all of the aircraft based on its questionable airworthiness.
Boeing presented workers with its “Best-and-Final” contract offer, which a company spokesman described as a continuation of the last contract with pay increases and a transition from the legacy pension program to a 401k retirement for all new employees.
Michael P. Delaney, a vice-president with the Seattle-based company, said, “Moving new hires to an enhanced retirement savings plan will provide future employees with a market-leading retirement plan — while allowing Boeing to better manage retirement plan expenses, reduce financial risk and invest in areas critical to the success of our business.”
Ballots on the new contract proposal from the company were mailed Feb. 5 and are due at a union office by the close of business Feb. 19, he said. The contract between Boeing and SPEEA expired in April.
In a video produced by the union and targeted to union members, two-thirds of which are professional engineers and one-third of which are technicians, Goforth said once authorized to declare a strike against the aerospace giant, the union would return the the bargaining table to continue negotiations.
Bill Dugovich, the SPEEA communications director said the union leadership is requesting the strike authorization, but the union leadership does not want a strike.