So called right to work legislation has recently been introduced in Missouri, New Hampshire, Indiana, and other states. The purpose of these laws is to weaken unions and drive down wages. Proponents, like Indiana state representative Jerry Torr argue that weakening unions and driving down wages through right-to-work-for-less legislation is “the one thing that doesn’t cost anything that will bring jobs to Indiana,” which has become the conventional wisdom of the day.
But a unionized workforce can be a big advantage to a state or region trying to create jobs, which has turned out to be the case in the state of Washington, where Boeing recently won a $35 billion contract with the US Department of Defense for a new Air Force refueling tanker largely through the efforts of its unionized workers.
“Union engineers and production workers worked with management to establish new more efficient productions lines,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of the International Association of Machinist District 751, which represents production workers at the Everett, Washington Boeing plant near Seattle.
By consulting and working with its union workers, Boeing was able to streamline the production line of its 767 passenger jet that will be modified into the refueling tanker. The new is line is 25 percent more efficient than the old one. As a result of these efficiencies, Boeing’s bid on the contract was 1 percent lower than its European competitor EADS, which was planning to build the refueling tanker at its non-union plant in Mobile, Alabama. The new contract will create 11,000 new jobs and pump about $693 million a year into local economies.
In District 751’s newspaper, Wroblewski said that “machinist helped Boeing cut production costs by transforming the (production) line to use lean production techniques, which allowed Boeing to lower its bid.”
The production efficiencies were achieved without union workers making any concessions on wages or benefits, which make up only 5 percent of Boeing’s production costs.
Wroblewski told District 751 members that they should be proud of the work they did to achieve efficiencies but that they shouldn’t get complacent because they could find themselves “under attack from opponents who dream only of increasing corporate wealth, and see us as obstacles to be crushed so the can grow their profits.”
Most notably, Wroblewski pointed to recent attacks on workers’ rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana as threats to all workers in the US and praised union workers in these states for the stands they’ve taken against these attacks. “(They’ve) said no to the powerful forces that were trying to take away some of their basic economic rights. They’ve drawn a line in the sand and stood up to Wall Street, the corporate titans, and the politicians who would put profit before people,” Wroblewski said.
Then he compared the attacks that Midwest workers have endured to attacks made on Boeing workers. “Like them, we’ve been attacked–downsized and outsourced, criticized and coerced. But we’ve held together in solidarity,” just like the workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana.
“On the picket line, we vow to last one day longer than management to make sure that we get a fair contract,” said Wroblewski. “And in Wisconsin, the union workers there say they’ll carry the fight one day longer than their misguided governor until he gives up on his efforts to crush their rights. This should be the goal of all working people nationwide.”