Like locusts that kill nearly everything in their path, union bosses in Washington State are threatening to destroy thousands of local jobs over changes to Boeing's pension plans. Without those needed changes, the company will uproot major manufacturing to Right to Work states like South Carolina. While rank and file union members appear to understand what is at stake, the union leadership continues to play a dangerous game of chicken with the company.
As we have seen with Detroit, union pension demands can easily imperial a city's, and certainly a company's, financial future. Boeing has paid generously to union pensions but has proposed to remain profitable by replacing the old retirement plans for generous 401k plans. A vote on the proposed change is scheduled for January 3.
Rejecting the contract offer over the pension change could be devastating to Boeing workers and even the state of Washington, which relies heavily on tax revenue from the industrial behemoth. If union bosses are successful at defeating the offer, Washington State could even see its credit rating downgraded. The stakes could not be higher. 84,000 people in the Evergreen state are employed by Boeing but in recent years, because of union demands, the company has been forced to move some manufacturing to other states where union bosses do not hold has much power and sway.
Interestingly, the national Machinist Union recognizes what is at stake is touting the company's offer as a $1 billion upgrade over the existing plan. It is the local union militants that are demanding even more concessions and are asking members to defeat the proposal and put their own jobs at risk. There is little doubt that defeat of the proposal next week will have tremendous implications both in Washington State and nationally.
We have seen this movie many times before. The union that represented Hostess Brands, the maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Snow Balls, among many other bakery products, was forced to close shop and 18,500 workers were placed on the unemployment line when the union continued demanding higher compensation, outrageous benefits, pensions and insane work rules. The company closed its doors and re-opened under new leadership sans a union. The Washington State Machinist Union would be smart to learn a lesson from the Hostess fight -- stop being ding dongs.