Demonstrators on Monday kept up their protests at the Chicago meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with a march and rally at Boeing’ world headquarters. Boeing is one of the largest military contractors with close relations with militaries in the US and other NATO nations.
These relations have made Boeing quite profitable, but these profits haven’t kept Boeing from seeking wage and benefit concessions from its workers or trying to weaken workers’ power by shifting work to anti-union right-to-work states. Boeing is also one of several military contractors that have avoided paying their fair share of taxes.
On Sunday, thousands of demonstrators rallied close to the NATO meeting demanding that money being spent on military misadventures like the 11-year old war in Afghanistan be diverted to working class communities to improve education, health care, and public safety.
On Saturday, the NATO protests got underway with a rally at Chicago’s Daley Plaza organized by the National Nurses Union and endorsed by more than 100 labor, environmental, community, and health groups. The NNU and their supporters called for NATO countries to adopt a transaction tax on speculative financial trades that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars of year to heal communities suffering from the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis.
Occupy Chicago called the Monday action at Boeing a victory because the company decided to close its headquarters for the day rather than face the demonstrators.
“We are hosting a victory party, complete with food, clowns, dancing and music after calls to protest the Boeing company on May 21st resulted in the company directing employees to stay home this Monday, effectively shutting themselves down,” read a posting on Occupy Chicago’s website.
Boeing like many other military contractors has been an extremely profitable business, but has not paid its fair share of taxes. Think Progress reports that between 2008 and 2010, Boeing made before tax profits of $9.7 billion, but its federal income tax rate during those three years was -1.8 percent. For those three years, it received income tax refunds totaling $178 million, money that could have been used to expand Medicare and Medicaid and fund thousands of public service jobs.
Despite its profitability Boeing continues to look for new ways to keep from sharing its profits with its workers. In 2011, the company unsuccessfully tried to move work from its unionized plant in Everett, Washington to its non-union, lower-wage plant near Charleston, South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
More recently, the company demanded that seven workers who maintain its flight simulators at Seymour Johnson Air Base in North Carolina agree to accept $6,000 worth of wage and benefit concessions. The workers, who call themselves the Solid Seven and are members of IAM Local 2296, refused to accept the concessions and went on strike in early April.
Sean Tierney, the union’s strike captain called Boeing’s concession demands “an insult to us” and said that the seven workers would protect their well-deserved wages and benefits by outlasting the company.
The City of Chicago tried to divert the Saturday demonstration out of downtown and away from the NATO meeting. But pressure by the National Nurses Union and its supporters caused the city to backdown.
More than 3,000 people heard speakers at Saturday’s rally, endorsed by more than 100 labor, community, health care, and environment groups, call on the US and other NATO nations to adopt a tax on speculative financial transactions such as derivative trading. The collapse of these trades brought on the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent recession that continues to cause pain in many working class communities.
The nurses estimate that a small tax of $0.50 per $100 worth of speculative trading could generate as much as $350 billion a year in the US. That money could be used to improve health care, education, and public safety and upgrade bridges, schools, roads, and other public infrastructure.
“I’ve been a nurse for 38 years and I have never seen our communities in such disarray and in such suffering as I have in the last couple of years,” said Deborah Burger, RN, and NNU co-president. “(Wall Street) got us into this mess and they have the money to bail us out.”
The Chicago Political Economy Group estimates that a tax on speculative trades like the one advocated by NNU would generate enough public money to create jobs that pay $35,000 a year for every unemployed American.