A New Reality: Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea
Just a few years ago during the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession’s long tenure, I remember a young, African American legislator on the federal level wondering aloud how Americans would react to this financial maelstrom. He described what was to come as a true measure of what we are as a people. “Will this upcoming crisis have us turn to each other or turn on each other?”
The looks of anguish and anger on the faces of those Seattle-area aerospace workers who watched their hard-fought pensions and health benefits eviscerated in a close 51% vote to accept Boeing’s final ultimatum suggests that there is a very New Reality at work here, in Washington, in Illinois, and everywhere. And, if “the times they are a changin’,” it does not bode well for the many of us who remember and honor collective bargaining and contractual promises.
Last spring at an IEA - Retired convention, respected IEA lobbyist Will Lovett described to an increasingly unsettled audience the great differences in the NEW Springfield environment. “It’s not the same anymore. There is no listening, no sharing…it’s completely different than it used to be.” Later, Director of TRS Dick Ingram had called this sea change in relationship between legislator and unions “the New Reality,” and began discussing how one might communicate in this different atmosphere – to the astonishment and ire of many, including me.
Back in Washington State: Having been tutored by states like Illinois, nearly 21 other states made obsequious offers of preposterous tax avoidance and other unseemly fiscal assistance to Boeing Corp. to move the development and manufacturing of their new airliner 777X to “their” state. This after the International Association of Machinists in Seattle first refused the hardball “take it or leave it” of Boeing in December as ridiculous.
After the union’s initial snub, Boeing quickly began the evocative dance of the “New Reality,” which involves offers of significant employment for possibly long term if the offers of tax avoidance, fiscal gifts and payment by the state for worker training are included. In the end, Washington State gave nearly $8.7 billion in tax relief and other incentives to land the teasing temptress while Boeing Corp. waved the recent past warning - production of the 787 Dreamliner that was shipped off to South Carolina.
Of course, Boeing appears an already wealthy ($5B in annual income) courtesan doing the suggestive dance for various state governors to get what she (really CEO McNerny [receives $21.1 B in annual salary] and the Board [increased dividend to shareholders by 50%]) want, but this is the New Reality. Remember ADM, and OfficeMax, and Sears, and CME, and Etc. have all learned how to do it. By the way, Illinois was in the game of tribute for Boeing’s manufacturing too, although Quinn and group would not identify just how much was offered. In fact, some have suggested that with its consistent historical behavior, money saved in Quinn’s and Madigan’s SB1 would be used to euchre other businesses to Illinois; this while they figure out how to steal more from the public sector workers.
And, in the New Reality, some of the biggest backers of accepting the Boeing demand (forget proposal) to move new workers to 401K programs, to lose on healthcare costs, etc. were the national leaders of the International Association of Machinists. In fact, the rift is palpable between the two, national administrators recommending the local vote yes to Boeing’s demands. On the other hand, the local leaders of I.A.M. felt that too many hard-fought concessions were being given away. Looking at the changes in the contract and the stagnation to incoming workers eventual pay, a spokesman for the local union named Bryan Corliss described the mistake of paying people who build airplanes as the same price for lowest wage workers in American retail(http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/01/02/2975148/some-workers-set-to-reach-100k.html . Others have warned Boeing that there will be a price to pay Washington workers who willingly bailed out manufacturing snafus in right-to-work and unskilled South Carolina and then received this corporate slap in the face. When we turn on each other, locals and nationals quickly separate in the clamoring for identity and fiscal security.
But it is Democrats in the New Reality that truly deserve another wary look by middle class workers, and for very good reason. What Fred Klonsky once described as a Bizarro World only endemic to Illinois has spread like an invasive species to many other places as well – take Washington State for example. In a recent Bloomberg article, Justin Bachman described important lessons to be taken from the Boeing Corp. win: Corporate threats now work. Getting the work back to Washington will make a better plane than the “good ole boys” of South Carolina. Boeing saves more, much more than the incentives offered to sign the contract. And…
Unions can no longer count on the Democrats.
Local Democrats in Washington State, like Iliinois Democrats, bent like reeds in the wind to the demands from above (Madigan or Quinn). In the case of Washington State, they “pleaded for workers to accept the Boeing contract and keep the company’s workers in the region” (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-09/boeings-victory-in-labor-fight-hurts-pensions-helps-the-777x). Likewise, in Illinois, Democrats are writing to their constituencies that they had to vote for SB1,”Even though it was ‘the most difficult decision in my life.’”
Subtext: workers’ unions in Illinois can no longer count on Democrats.
And some, like my Senator Jones(my Representative doesn’t do communication) suggest that we can all revisit SB2404 when the Illinois Supreme Court finds SB1 unconstitutional.
Are you out of your ever-loving mind?
Do you believe that our unions would ever revisit another variation of forced consideration if they were to win in this upcoming court battle? We would accept the SB2404 concept, as described by legal representative Mr. John Stevens of We Are One, “What? Choice? Whether to have you shoot me or I have to jump off the cliff?”
Madigan, Quinn, and even you Senator Jones have played the same cruel card Boeing and others play: Take it or leave it. Let’s turn on each other. We took your constitutionally promised benefits and now we’re going to penalize you for our theft.
You really think the unions will come back to the table to re-visit SB2404? I can’t imagine them doing that. That’s a New Unreality. Somewhere uncomfortably between a rock and hard place.