On Wednesday, November 20th, 2013, I was interviewed by Maria La Ganga of the LA TIMES. Her questions inspired the journal entry below:
Post Interview thoughts:
People say I’m courageous and brave, however that is not how I feel. I feel afraid, the kind of fear you feel when every muscle in your body tightens. My upper traps feel like knotted rocks. It’s hard to breathe. My breathing is tense and shallow. It takes effort to push the wall of my chest up to take a breath. Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating. My face feels hot and my cheeks flushed. There is a lump that sits in my throat. I swallow trying to push it away yet it remains. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this kind of fear so I know I can handle it. It’s worth it. There is so much at stake! Not doing or saying anything will only result in more of the same. Apathy is our worst enemy. Sitting quietly is what they want us to do. It gives them the upper hand, only their message is heard. They are anything but quiet. They are in attack mode. Their weapons are the media, email, printed handouts and videos. They bombard us with their heavy artillery in the days prior to the vote .We are sent emails and handouts telling why their proposal is so great. We watch mandatory videos. They talk to the media and local government. The message is always the same. Vote YES or We will leave and it will be your fault. Local headlines make it clear, Boeing Exec Urges Machinists to Vote Yes or Landing the 777x Dependent on Machinist Vote. Now the seed has been planted. The local government, media and citizens are watered. When we vote no they lash out, telling us we are greedy, selfish, whiners. They holler, “It’s all your fault Boeing might leave!” “way to go Machinist’s you just cost us thousands of jobs.” It’s hard for them to see and hear our side; most of them have never walked in our shoes. All they hear is the deafening sound of our opponents. But we stand strong regardless. We know Why we voted NO. Most of them think it’s all about money but we are here to tell you it is so much more complex than that. Many of us are second and third generation employees. A lot of us grew up in Boeing homes. Strong values instilled within us at early ages. Values such as integrity, loyalty, and solidarity. Many of us watched our fathers and grandfathers walk picket lines to preserve benefits such as pensions, sick leave, bereavement and step progression. We watched them fight to retain benefits for New Hires and Retirees, they sat in the cold, ate PB&J, and went without pay, sometimes for months at a time to fight for benefits for people who no longer worked there or had not yet been hired. A lot of them could not afford to not be working, bills were left unpaid, and lights shut off. But they knew what they were fighting for was worth it. They taught us to stand united, to fight for those whose cannot fight for themselves and to not cave under the pressure of criticism. Our values are deeply ingrained. At Boeing there are many of us, we are in every shop, in every office. There are not many places you can go where there is not at least one or two of us who have family ties. In my area I can count at least 6. Each of us has a branch some only have one but others have up to 8. You can see this pattern repeated all over the Puget Sound. People can’t understand why we said, no. We can’t understand how they can expect us to say yes. Would they sell out their own families? Do we live in a society where apathy is preferred over integrity? Do you want us to say, “Oh, it’s going to happen eventually so we might as well let it”? Have we entered an era where we are expected to give Corporate America everything it wants whenever they demand it? Is it now OK for any employer to simply demand that you accept reduced compensation for the work you perform? Just because they (as Mr. Conner put it) want to WIN?! ?! Perhaps Mr. Conner and Charlie Sheen are friends.
You asked me if I was angry at Boeing. While I cannot say that I am angry at Boeing because I believe that the machinists, engineers, and salaried employees of the Pacific Northwest are the true heart of Boeing. I can say that I am angry, disappointed and disheartened with the corporate entities of the Boeing Company. They have proven they have little to no regard for their employees. They have gone out of their way to create a negative public opinion for IAM machinists in an attempt to WIN and be number one over Airbus at the expense of their employees. They say it was so that they could “Stay Competitive” and that our competitor wants to take our share of the market. Then only a few days after we vote NO they land the biggest orders in the history of the company. In addition to the largest order in history they outsold their competitors more than double! I don’t know about the rest of my fellow IAM members but I would have felt like a total fool if I would have caved and said yes. There is a disconnect. You tell the media you have market leading pay and compensation but you are the only one in your class .Who else sells wide-bodied aircraft other than you? Comparing our compensation package to Airbus’s is apple and oranges. They are a foreign company. The vacation and health care compensation is vastly different due to those two facts. You cannot compare our compensation package to Airbus or the smaller distributors who supply our parts .How is selling a small sub assembly comparable to a wide bodied jetliner? So I ask again who exactly are the people you are comparing our market leading compensation too? As far as I can see we are in a unique class of our own.
You asked me why I wrote the letter. My hope in writing the letter was to get them to see us as people and not just another BEMS ID. It is too easy for them to just look at a number and not see the humanity behind it. I wanted to make it difficult for them to only see a number.
In the days since my letter was posted on the Everett Heralds Website I have received numerous letters from Boeing Employee’s (IAM and SPEEA) from every site in the Puget Sound and Portland. All have been resoundingly supportive and positive. Their message is clear they feel betrayed by Boeing and Union leadership. So many of them have sacrificed through years for Boeing, Working mandatory 10-12 hour days and weekends. A lot of us remember our parents always working, not being available on weekends or special events and now as adults many of us are doing the same. Many of us have sacrificed our bodies suffered from repetitive use injuries or chemical sensitivity due to years of exposure. We have endured surgeries and rehabilitation. But you still do not think we are worth the compensation we currently receive. You want to reduce it so you can say you’re WINNING. Tell us Mr. Conner are you willing to reduce your salary and the salaries of all your coworkers in the interest of winning?
Our union leadership may have sent us confusing mixed messages but do not be fooled we are not weak! In fact we are stronger! In the midst of confusion, fear and uncertainty we stood as one united in solidarity. Our message was clear we said NO! No, we will not tolerate Ultimatums. No, we will not stand by and be bullied. No, we will not sell out our parents, children or fellow IAM brothers and sisters past, present or future!
Others think this was all about money, they are blind the consequences of saying yes. A yes vote would have permanently weakened the collective bargaining process and power not only for IAM members but for SPEEA and possibly every union in the region, sending the message to Boeing and other employers that it is acceptable to toss Ultimatums at employees whenever they please with the expectation of Yes. Voting yes damages the solidarity of our union, it cripples our unity, and it divides us! Collective Bargaining happens when two parties work together! Boeing telling us to take it or leave without allowing us to respond with counter offers leaves us no choice but to say NO. Headlines read, Boeing and Union reach agreement. How can Boeing and the union be in mutual agreement when IAM membership is left out of the process? It seems to me that our union officials need to start communicating with the rank and file members so that Boeing and IAM Membership (the true heart of the union) can reach a mutual agreement.
Do not misunderstand us; we do not see our vote of NO as a victory over Boeing leadership. We should have NEVER been placed in this position to begin with! Our contract is not due to expire for 3 more years. Boeing leadership knew they would be securing orders at the recent airshow and attempted to strong arm us into a bad deal before record orders were announced.
We do not know what the future holds for us. We do not know if we will be building the 777x. We are ready, willing, and already trained for the challenge! We are the BEST, most qualified workforce for the job! What other region can say they have 2 and 3 generations of qualified builders working together to build excellence? Only the Puget Sound…
You may ask me what I am afraid of …there is a lot to lose. Will speaking out and standing up for myself and my fellow IAM member get me into trouble? Will I have a job a few years from now? Will I be able to retire from this great company with dignity? Or will I be forced find work as a senior? Will the economy in my region collapse because the business that has supported it for 4-5 generations decided to pack up and move out in the interest of winning?
November 21, 2013
To our brothers and sister in South Carolina:
Today you stand unprotected, there is nothing protecting your wages, pension or job security. Boeing leadership has the ability to dictate changes to your pay and benefits as they please without a vote or input from you. They have proven that wages are still not secure. They will reduce and eliminate pay and benefits in the interest of WINNING!
Boeing Leadership has used you as a weapon against us; they have made it their mission to segregate us. They preach to us about team building and partnership yet they are the ones driving the wedge between us. You are the threat they hang over our heads.
They want us to be foes but I say JOIN US! You are already distant cousins in our Boeing family. Our distance and separation is hurting us and its hurting you. Join our IAM family, come stand under our umbrella of protection, as our brothers and sisters! ! Even in the midst of leadership turmoil, we stand strong and united in solidarity! Send Boeing a message …tell them you value humanity and unity over WINNING!