Jessica Desvarieux, TRNN Producer: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
On Monday, organized labor and their supporters rallied in Seattle to support Boeing workers who have rejected a contract extension with the company. Last week, the union voted down the proposal, saying that even though Boeing offered a $10,000 signing bonus and guaranteed jobs to work on the new 777X aircraft, the contract would cut pensions and benefits and reduce raises to 1 percent every other year. Boeing has threatened to move production of the aircraft out of Washington state, although the government offered Boeing a record state corporate tax break of almost $9 billion.
Now joining us to discuss this is Kshama Sawant. She is the first open socialist Seattle city council in more than a century, and she’s an economics professor and activist. Thanks for joining us.
Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council Member-Elect, Socialist Alternative: Thank you.
Desvarieux: So, Kshama, this Boeing deal, almost a $9 billion tax break, it was passed by Washington State, but it will affect your constituents. So I know that you follow these issues very closely. Can you just explain the significance of Boeing employees rejecting the offer, especially in light of the proposed tax break?
Sawant: Yes, absolutely. This is such an important question. I’m glad you, you are talking about this.
So, first of all, we should remember Boeing has got tens of billions of handouts from from the Washington State government for several years now, and this is the only the newest one of them. And as you said, it’s almost $9 billion.
And the question is: why should the Boeing workers accept this? You know, the logic is that, well, if you don’t, if you don’t accept all the cuts in the pension and health care and all the—you know, in the wage freezes, then we’re going to move jobs elsewhere. This is nothing short of highway robbery. You know, the Boeing CEO, McNerney, if he was to retire today, he has a retirement plan of of over $275,000 a month. And he’s also talked about cutting funding for Social Security.
And how much do Boeing workers get? If you work for 30 years at Boeing, then you are entitled to maybe $2,700 per month. And that is something that the Boeing executives want to destroy by forcing this new contract down the throats of Boeing workers.
And who has facilitated this whole process? It’s the Democratic governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee. It’s a Democratic dominated House and a strong Democratic caucus in the Senate. Despite all this, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to give this handout to Boeing.
And there is so much to be done in terms of funding transit, education, social services. Every time we talk about that, the governor says there’s no money for any of that. But they have $9 billion to sell out to Boeing.
And what does this tell us? You know, the two lessons, take-home lessons from this: one is that you cannot rely on the Democrats to solve these problems. They are going to give the same corporate handouts that the Republicans will. And if Boeing workers really want to fight for their jobs and preserve their wages, then they have to fight against the two-party system and argue for a mass political alternative outside the Democrats and Republicans.
The other thing this shows is the failures of capitalism itself. I mean, the reason Boeing is able to threaten Mr. Boeing workers is because there are poorer people in other states in the United States.
So this is a nationwide and global race to the bottom. If we accept their logic of moving jobs, then there is no alternative to this ongoing race to the bottom. It will only get worse, and workers everywhere will get poorer than they are today.
The only alternative to this is to reject that entire race to the bottom. So what we’re saying is that if Boeing is going to threaten to take jobs away—and, by the way, they’re already cutting jobs. They have been cutting jobs all along. So this is a myth that if they stay here and if we relent on all those conditions that they want to impose on the workers, then they’re going to get to keep their jobs. That’s a myth. It they’ve already cut jobs.
But if they insisted on doing this, then that is nothing short of economic terrorism. And the only alternative to that kind of economic terrorism is for Boeing workers to say, okay, we’re done. If you feel you CEOs, you want to leave, you can leave. The machines are here, the workers are here. Let’s take Boeing into Democratic public ownership. Let’s—let us working people run Boeing democratically together. We don’t need the CEOs. The CEOs are not the ones that run the machines. It’s the machinists who are running the machine. And we can retool the machines to to produce mass transit instead of destructive war machines. That’s the solution.
Desvarieux: Okay. And as a socialist, I want to talk more about that solution. What’s the alternative to corporate tax breaks and cutting worker benefits to ensure employment?
Sawant: The only—the alternative to that is to fight against corporate tax breaks, you know, to fight to end corporate tax breaks, to fight to tax corporations and the super wealthy. You know, the tax rates on corporations and the wealthy are at a historic low. We should reject regressive taxation. You know, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the entire nation. So my socialist campaign and in Seattle is calling for a millionaire tax, you know, tax on people who make more than $1 million a year, in order to fund mass transit and education. And we are fighting for $15 an hour, and we are fighting for affordable housing and rent control.
So these are concrete examples of what we should be fighting for. Vote on the streets and through the campaigns that are independent of corporate money and independent of the two big business parties, which is what we did. We didn’t take a dime from big business, and yet we were able to raise $120,000 in campaign funds purely through grassroots contributions. And we did not seek any Democratic Party contributions—I mean, sorry, endorsements from the the Democratic Party establishment. So we have to run independent, anticorporate, anti-capitalist campaigns like that.
But like I was saying earlier, even though we are fighting for these forms, we cannot stop talking about the fact that we also need to fight against the system itself. So the fight for social reforms needs to raise the consciousness, political consciousness of everybody involved, and we should understand that we need to go even further and find fundamental alternatives to capitalism itself.
Desvarieux: Alright. Ksharma Sawant, thank you so much for joining us.
Sawant: Thank you.
Desvarieux: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.