Washington has a plethora of industry, but there are two names that pretty much come to people's minds when they think of the state: Boeing and Microsoft. I have worked for both, and while I have mentioned my high tech industry experiences, I don't talk about Boeing much.
I hired on to the 777 plant in Everett in 1996, about a year and a half after I left the Air Force.
Prior to my hiring on, in 1995, I began to pay attention to Boeing. It was just prior to Christmas in 1995. I heard the stories and saw the TV reports. Christmas shopping at the Auburn Super Mall we drove past the picket lines.
I noticed something. Boeing had offered them a new contract at around 45 days and they were voting on it. A person labeled as a Union Officer came on TV expressing his optimism. The membership flatly rejected it. Shortly afterward, the same guy spoke on TV about how he had been pretty sure the Members would reject it.
I admit, I laughed. I figured if that was the kind of dufas they elected, oh well.
The strike went another 3 weeks or so finally ending at 69 days.
When I hired on in 1996, the veterans and old timers were still crowing about that strike.
I mentioned to one what I had noticed, and he nodded sagely, and told me a startling accusation: the union was in cahoots with Boeing management and the strike had been engineered deliberately.
NOTE: Obviously I need to add the disclaimer, this is not my theory, but that of a veteran employee.
So intrigued (hey it beat working) I asked him to explain. He claimed that Boeing as behind in planning and production on the 777, and rather then pay penalties for delays, they could take advantage of a 45 day extension on contracts that was allowed during - you guessed it - contract disputes.
So, he claimed that Boeing deliberately offered a crappy contract on day one, and forced the strike. Then, around day 45, when they lost the extension, they offered the real contract.
He cackled slyly at this point. here was his moment of pride: The union was wise to them, and stuck it to them by refusing it, and going on strike longer. He said it was a brilliant plan that gained them a much better contract, and showed them who was boss.
I didn't take him all that seriously, at least not then. But then i heard essentially the same story from several other veterans.
Added to it was the shocking accusation that senior Union Officials were in on it the whole time.
Now as to that last line. the fact that I was told this prior to a Union election may have more to do with it than anything else. So I am not accusing the union of any chicanery.
In fact, I am not accusing Boeing either. I am merely recounting an interesting conspiracy theory since it seems to echo some interesting present events.
You see, the present climate is that the union is ready to strike, and coincidentally, Boeing is having some design issues on the new Dreamliner.
Coincidence? More than likely.
But as the news stories carried the story about the possibility of another strike, I had a flashback to those conversations. I can't help but wonder:
And oddly, a quick Google Search found a few stories with other people making that claim this year and in years past, including these stories about 1995 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/archives/1995/9510090061.asp, http://www.themilitant.com/1995/5943/5943_1.html). I also found this strike FAQ from 1995 which mentions directly the "45 day Myth" but offers two different alternatives as to what it means: (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19951123&slug=2154115)
Q. What about the 45-day "myth"?
A. It's a concept often mentioned, but unconfirmed, by Boeing and union officials. One version says Boeing wanted a strike for at least 45 days, a point when penalty-clauses for late deliveries would be lifted. Another has it that the company wanted to settle in 45 days because that's when penalties kicked in. There are other variations.
And just to be fair, I also found links accusing the Union itself of engineering the strikes to make sure the Union stayed prominent, and to keep Boeing defensive and other self serving accusations.
So how about it readers, can anyone confirm the sentiments or perhaps refute the accusations?