With Boeing, politicians show true colors

With politicians’ heavy thumbs upon the scale of the 777X decision, the Machinists have spoken. Again.

In 1894, railroad magnate George Pullman crushed a strike, declaring that “workers have nothing to do with the amount of wages they shall receive; that is solely the business of the company.” Labor relations are much more genial today. Instead of calling in Pinkerton guards, Boeing simply enlisted pension-holding politicians to importune workers to give up pension rights.

A surreal Everett press conference featured six politicians with government pensions hectoring Machinists, including one, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, already drawing over $60,000 annually from past State Patrol service. Cashing in his own $44,000 annual congressional pension, Gov. Jay Inslee demanded Machinists vote again.

Crises bring out the Chamberlain or Churchill in the political class. This one brought opportunity for empathy and leadership instead of hypocrisy and cringing servility. Where was the press conference of politicians demanding that Boeing CEO James McNerney, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, relinquish some of a retirement package that exceeds $44.7 million?

With income inequality at historic highs, such a press conference would have sounded the note of populist outrage this occasion demanded. But it would also take the long view, arguing for a less-unequal future. There has seldom been such political courage, making those exhibiting it all the more exceptional. None of the politicians in this episode will, as is true with Theodore Roosevelt (yet again) in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Bully Pulpit,” be subjects of bestselling histories a century hence for courage in standing up to corporate behemoths. Instead they may be vignettes when future historians ponder what killed the middle class dream.

Political expediency demanded kicking workers to the curb so “greedy” Machinists could be blamed in any “Who-Lost-Boeing?” free-for-all — even if the principles of those workers could hardly be greater. I daresay the average Washingtonian would find it irresistible to sacrifice almost anything about the future in exchange for the short-term cash incentive Boeing dangled. Yet the 49 percent of Machinists defying the establishment, and voting “no,” were prescient: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among those fearing a crisis where reliance on Social Security replaces disappearing private pensions. As Warren warned recently, “Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water.” Is this what we want?

The lurching reaction of the political class, and failure to take the long view about what kind of state we want to be, portends trouble on other fronts. For government to subvert a private sector union, even after giving Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks, is a bad harbinger for working people under more-direct state control.

For example, although Washington teachers’ salaries have slipped far below even neighboring Oregon’s, should we believe restoration of salary increase-granting Initiative 732 — suspended for six years — will ever occur? While threats emanating from Chicago could prompt a “Boeing session” of a panicked haste so galloping that majority House Democrats did not even have their majority, the Washington Supreme Court’s indictment of the state’s failure to attend to its paramount duty to fund K-12 did not compel fair treatment of teachers in 2013, nor in the proposed 2014 supplemental budget.

Perhaps hard work, whether by Machinists or teachers, warrants only takeaways in this new, anti-middle class era. Where do we, as a state, go from here?

Brendan Williams is a former legislator and a long-term care advocate.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

The vessel Tonga Chief, a 10-year-old Singaporean container ship, is moored at the Port of Everett Seaport in November, 2023, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)
Editorial: Leave port tax issue for campaign, not the ballot

Including “taxing district” on ballot issue to expand the Port of Everett’s boundaries is prejudicial.

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, May 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Burke: Torrent of lies doing what’s intended; wearing us down

When media outlets stop bothering to check the facts that leaves it to us to question the falsehoods.

Drivers could have helped limit mess from I-5 shutdown

While I was not involved in the I-5 northbound traffic backup on… Continue reading

Everett School District should allow graduates to wear regalia

My name is Lanie Thompson, and I am a current senior at… Continue reading

Making college affordable key to our future

The cost of attending college is prohibitively expensive. This barrier to entry… Continue reading

Snohomish County Councilmembers Nate Nehring, left, and Jared Mead, speaking, take turns moderating a panel including Tulip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Candidates, voters have campaign promises to make

Two county officials’ efforts to improve political discourse skills are expanding to youths and adults.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks to a reporter as his 2024 gubernatorial campaign launch event gets underway in Seattle, on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. ( Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)
Editorial: Recruiting two Bob Fergusons isn’t election integrity

A GOP activist paid the filing fee for two gubernatorial candidates who share the attorney general’s name.

Foster parent abstract concept vector illustration. Foster care, father in adoption, happy interracial family, having fun, together at home, childless couple, adopted child abstract metaphor.
Editorial: State must return foster youths’ federal benefits

States, including Washington, have used those benefits, rather than hold them until adulthood.

Making adjustments to keep Social Security solvent represents only one of the issues confronting Congress. It could also correct outdated aspects of a program that serves nearly 90 percent of Americans over 65. (Stephen Savage/The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH NYT STORY SLUGGED SCI SOCIAL SECURITY BY PAULA SPAN FOR NOV. 26, 2018. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED.
Editorial: Social Security’s good news? Bad news delayed a bit

Congress has a little additional time to make sure Social Security is solvent. It shouldn’t waste it.

Kristof: If slowing Gaza aid isn’t criminal, it’s unconscionable

The allegations against Israel’s Netanyahu center on Israel’s throttling of aid into a starving Gaza.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, May 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.