Boeing,the Obama Presidency and the future of jobs in the USA

The Obama administration has been working hard to keep Boeing's incompetent millionaire management and the Republicans from destroying one of our crown jewel technology companies. After making big sales for Boeing in India (remember that trip by the President that was supposedly such a waste of money?) and awarding the company a huge $35billion defense contract that the Bush administration and Republican Senator Richard Shelby wanted to give to European Union, the Obama administration's National Labor Relations Board has just ordered Boeing management to stop delaying production of the new 787 jet and to put a production line in its Washington State factories. The plane is years late and Boeing's customers who pre-ordered are furious. You might think that Boeing management would want to get the 787 to market and make some sales as soon as possible. But Boeing CEO W. James McNerney who paid himself $14million dollars last year seems more interested in getting rid of $60K/year skilled workers, the most highly skilled and valuable manufacturing workers in the world, than in dull stuff like making and selling airplanes.

To understand something about Boeing management, consider that they made a fat contribution to Senator Shelby last year - yes the same guy who nearly cost them a $35billion contract. They moved corporate HQ from Seattle to Chicago because they wanted to be nearer Wall Street and K-Street and not be so close to that grubby factory and those crass machinists (those people wear work boots, how unrefined!). And they have lost a whole lot of money. Not their money though. In 2001, Boeing decided to make a hugely risky bet that it could outsource production of the 787 to suppliers around the world and keep only the least profitable part of the business, the assembly, for itself. The plan was evaluated by Boeing's own engineering staff to be Dilbert level stupid and it has turned out to be a fiasco that will be studied in business schools for generations. Years late and billions in the hole Boeing decided to fire the managers who made the decision - just kidding, that doesn't happen in America.

Instead they decided to double down with another risky project and buy and renovate an old factory in South Carolina where they could pay non-union workers $12/hour. And then they boasted that this would really stick it to the union. But that's illegal and, for the first time in decades labor laws are being enforced. The law says management cannot punish workers for union activity - and that's what Boeing management said they were doing. If President Obama is not re-elected in 2012, his temporary appointments to the labor board will be fired (Congress refused to even consider the nominations Obama sent), and Richard Shelby will get his way and destroy both Boeing and his other enemy US auto companies. But for now US Workers, still, have the right to organize in unions and demand a living wage and the government is protecting one of our crown jewel companies from the enemies who seek to destroy it - its own management. The government is seeking to require that Boeing run a production line in Washington state - and that's good news for everyone from Boeing's customers to the union movement to the US military that depends on Boeing's expertise. In a second installment I'm going to discuss the problem with American management, the terrible and misleading coverage from the mainstream press, and the all too predictable lack of interest in this story from progressive media and blogs. Note: want to add this fascinating link


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