Letters to the Editor

Unions far from perfect, but they protect workers

Gary McGavran's letter in the Nov. 29 Reporter ("Unions destroying jobs, area's future") is an example of the inability of many people to exercise anything approaching critical thinking.

He says he was a Boeing engineer, and if he is telling the truth then he was almost certainly a member of SPEEA, the company's second biggest union. Had SPEEA not struck a decade or so ago, Mr. McGavran and his colleagues would have lost tens of thousands in income, and many of their jobs would by now have been outsourced to India or some other low-wage country. He seems to bite the hand that fed him.

With the 777-X deal, the company correctly assumed it could get whatever it wanted, with the promise of new work staying here.

Twenty years ago I covered a Boeing news conference where the then-president promised that their corporate headquarters wasn't going anywhere. They lied then, and could not be trusted not to be doing it again.

They extorted tax breaks and other benefits from their political pawns, and expected to do the same with their workers ... even while the company is making robust profits because of the work of those very employees.

The job of an employer is to run his business, whether it is a shoemaker's shop or an aerospace giant. The job of a union is to protect the direct interests of members – wages, working conditions, and benefits like health care and pensions. IAM negotiators gave Boeing what it wanted and offered the package to members for a vote. The members – not the union leaders – rejected it. It simply was not a deal that benefited them, now, or in the long run.

Mr. McGavran says companies that "do well create more jobs." That's the theory of course ... but in the wake of the Great Recession, a new reality has emerged.

Corporate earnings and profits have recovered nicely, but the money is largely not being spent to rehire laid-off workers. It's being used to bolster corporate earnings and the bonus payments to the people at the very top.

Unions are not perfect. I know. For nine years, I was the president of the Seattle local of a national professional workers union.

But they are the only protection available for working people. Mr. McGavran is old enough to know that.

– Steve Krueger

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