Boeing Strike Agreement Reached

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Fri Mar 17 08:26:26 PST 2000

>On Behalf Of Rakesh Bhandari

> but anyone should admit that building a
> >broader unified conception of the "working class" in America is
> an important
> >gain, especially given the incessant stratification and
> oppositions between
> >workers promoted in the media.
> Since I won't admit this as any one should, am I now a non person?

No, just someone who seems to like building coalitions by subtraction, rather than addition :)

But to the substantive issues:

> While this engineers' strike does not harken back to exclusionary craft
> unionism, I don't see how a unified conception of the working class was
> forged either. From a NYT account, the strikers did not come to understand
> themselves as part of the working class whose collective interest
> they were advancing but rather highly skilled engineers who felt
> squeezed in between
> Seattle software engineer millionaires and newly dignified
> machinists. In this
> sense, I don't see how this strike is a blow against that incessant
> opposition and stratification that you mention...And the AFL CIO did not
> call this strike, so no credit is necessarily due to the Sweeney
> leadership.

And they could have just gone the individualist professional rout, or they could do what they did, which is act like a labor union, seek the support of other workers, and mount a collective action. And stop taking the New York Times so seriously as an accurate reflection of sentiment; I can't judge from a distance what the total sentiment was, but the NYT rarely does it right. Check out the Boeing union web pages for a slightly better sense.

And I am not sure what you mean the "AFL CIO did not call this strike." Technically, the AFL-CIO never calls a strike; it's always the workers of their affiliated unions that call the strike. But significantly, the Boeing engineers, who had an independent union for almost fifty years, voted to affiliate with the major AFL-CIO engineering and technical workers union last fall. It was largely that affiliation with other union workers that showed a retreat from company-only elitism towards a broader commitment to shared worker struggle.

And over various emails, I have seen healthy appreciation by many of the striking engineers for the political and financial support offered by other unions. Because they were an independent union, the Boeing engineers had no strike fund, so they were dipping directly into savings almost immediately -- admittedly not as harsh for them as poorer workers, but still hard for a lot of folks.

-- Nathan Newman

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