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Boeing Strikers Still Raging Against Machine


Machinists seek job security; management seeks outsourcers.

It doesn't look like anyone will benefit from the strike of 27,000 machinists at Boeing (BA).

The workers walked out on September 6th, before financial markets took the swan dive that required a global bailout to avoid Armageddon.

Still, the housing crunch was buffetting the economy and unemployment was rising when unionized workers walked out. Striking at the start of what sure looks like a recession wouldn't be smart, even aside from the fact that the workers will never get back lost wages.

This is Boeing's longest strike since 1995. Machinists, who average $65,000 a year with overtime, are scraping by on $150 a week in strike benefits and are taking part-time jobs where they can find them, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Strikers say they want to lock in job security. Sure - who wouldn't? But how do you do it in a global economy, especially now?

The strike costs Boeing as much as $100 million a day in lost revenue from unmet deliveries. The company's new 787 Dreamliner is already about 2 years behind schedule, and the strike may push the first flight of the new plane into next year.

Meanwhile, commercial airlines have been hammered by rising fuel costs. Some airlines have cut flights as businesses and leisure travelers trim their budgets.

Labor and management are expected to resume negotiations today with federal mediators. But both sides remain far apart on a key issue: Whether Boeing can farm out more work to outside contractors. This almost certainly means there will be no quick resolution to the strike.

Union members say they've already lost too much work to outsourcing. Boeing counters that it can't guarantee job security because it could erode the company's future competitiveness.

Let's see: Jobs in auto manufacturing and textiles have moved overseas or into nonunion US plants. The United Auto Workers backed off pension demands, because US automakers are ailing and their survival is in doubt. Boeing strikers might ask: Is there a pattern here?
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