The progressive media and labor unions

Nearly a month has passed since the Obama administration National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) intervened to stop Boeing from recklessly and illegally punishing its unionized, high skill Washington State workers. The business press and the Republicans have reacted strongly both in media and in Congress. Their story is that Boeing is a private enterprise that is the victim of government "micro-managing". In the real world, however, Boeing is entirely dependent on government subsidies to exist, it is more of a public/private partnership than anyone wants to admit, its paper-wizard management doesn't seem to understand the business they control, and the government intervention is almost certain to benefit Boeing's shareholders and customers as well as its workers - and the national interest. But while the corporate side is on the move, there has been no rallying of public support for the administration. The "progressive" media is uninterested. Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, Dean Baker and other progressive pundits have joined blogs like DailyKos and FireDogLake in passing over this story almost entirely and The Nation relegated coverage to a single blog post. You have to go to labor union affiliated blogs to see any serious mention at all.

You could make a good case that "progressives" are only interested in labor unions when they can find a reason to bash the Obama administration about them. So the lack of progress of labor's prize "card check" law in Congress gets coverage and the Wisconsin public workers controversy was the occasion for many complaints that the President was not living up to his pledge and literally walking a picket line. And we hear a lot of no-data complaining about trade agreements. But when the Administration tries to protect coal miners, wins wage increases for agricultural workers, strikes against employers who fail to pay benefits or legal wages and/or put their hands in employee pension funds - there is near silence.

The NLRB coverage is especially striking because "progressive" media was highly critical when the Obama administration delayed for more than a yea before deciding to make recess appointments to the NLRB to get around Senate Republican filibusters of nominations. Now that the NLRB is intervening against Boeing's expensive labor union busting program and threatening to sue Republican state governments for anti-union laws, however, interest has waned. Not that the business press or corporate lobbies have failed to pick up the significance - they are actively working to stop the NLRB. But Michael Moore is on TV discussing minor discrepancies in the administrations account of the Bin Ladin mission, Dean Baker is complaining that the although there are more manufacturing jobs, they don't pay as much as they should, and Paul Krugman is reacting to a great jobs report with "So, could have been worse. But not a reason to rejoice." Certainly the progressive media seems to be in no hurry to change their record of never having ever rallied popular support for a single progressive initiative of the Obama administration.
By the way labor affiliated and stuffily academic EPI needs to get a serious kick in the ass from someone about marketing its message to the public for a change.

And this is an important issue. Although the business press wants to pretend otherwise, Boeing's millionaire executives with their Six-Sigma power point slide decks and bonus pools are not entrepreneurs. Half of Boeing's revenue comes from military and space contracts and the other half is heavily subsidized by our own and other governments. Boeing received guaranteed sales of 777s to Japan Air in exchange for subcontracting some work to a Japanese consortium that was subsidized itself - two subsidies from the Government of Japan in one deal. Boeing even got subsidies for trying to screw over its own workers - South Carolina taxpayers scraped up nearly $1billion to pay Boeing to put a factory that would employ $12/hour workers in their state. And Boeing needed the subsidy because their decision to try to avoid employing their most highly skilled workers on a project that's already late makes no sense as a business decision.
One bracing lesson that Albaugh was unusually candid about: the 787's global outsourcing strategy -- specifically intended to slash Boeing's costs -- backfired completely.
"We spent a lot more money in trying to recover than we ever would have spent if we'd tried to keep the key technologies closer to home," Albaugh told his large audience of students and faculty.
Boeing was forced to compensate, support or buy out the partners it brought in to share the cost of the new jet's development, and now bears the brunt of additional costs due to the delays.
Some Wall Street analysts estimate those added costs at between $12 billion and $18 billion, on top of the $5 billion Boeing originally planned to invest.
Bringing attention to the struggle of working people against America's royalist management class is something you'd hope that progressive media would value. Apparently not.

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