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Saddened by Boeing contract, Walker vote PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

I’ve been saddened and puzzled by recent events in Seattle, where I’ve lived for the past 25 years, and in Eagle River, where I’ve been a summer resident for 77 years.

My sadness is due to the loss of financial security for older citizens who have accepted reduced compensation and will lose pension income following their retirements.

Why did the Boeing Co. force workers to accept reduced pension benefits and why did Eagle River voters support a governor who reduced net compensation and eliminated collective bargaining for state workers?

In Seattle, Boeing negotiated a severe contract with 25,000 workers who manufacture the fast-selling 777 aircraft by threatening to relocate to another state. A major feature of the new Boeing contact was the pension change from “defined benefits” to “defined contributions.”

Boeing’s reduction of overall worker compensation comes at a time when executive pay and company profits are soaring. In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker and the state Legislature have reduced state payments to pension plans for many public workers and eliminated collective bargaining. Actions in both Washington and Wisconsin diminish part of the safety net that those of us who aren’t super rich may someday need.

In Seattle, despite vigorous support for the workers by the general population, politicians and newspapers — who feared loss of jobs and tax income — urged the union to accept Boeing’s terms.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker received strong support from Eagle River voters in a recall election. Of course, the circumstances in Seattle and Eagle River differ greatly. Boeing’s actions reflect a century-long de-emphasis of corporate social responsibility and increasing corporate amorality.

Walker is a product of increased?conservative Repub­lican and Tea Party patriot activism as well as major financial support from out-of-state billionaires such as the Koch brothers.

Boeing’s behavior appears on the surface to be understandable. Boeing competes with Airbus and will eventually be challenged by China. Manufacturing costs are lower elsewhere.

Actions in Eagle River seem more puzzling. A letter in the Vilas County News-Review Jan. 1 stated that 54% of Eagle River households have incomes less than $25,000. This suggests that many of our Wisconsin neighbors may need help from a safety net at some time during their lives.

Another puzzling aspect of actions in Eagle River is the apparent discrepancy between professed values and political behavior.

The Vilas County News-Review often promotes Christianity, both in editorials and letters from readers, such as the one from Dr. W. E. Anderson (Jan. 1, 2014). The Christian value that we are our brothers’ keepers goes back to the story of Abel and Cain and was emphasized by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31).

America’s Founding Fathers even went beyond Christian values when they asserted our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Events in Seattle and Eagle River lead citizens to feel helpless in the face of circumstances beyond their control. In the Middle East and Africa, perceived helplessness is suggested to be a major cause of the violence endemic in those regions.

Concerns about perceived helplessness and violence underlie ongoing national conversations regarding increasing disparities in the distribution of wealth. Seattle and Eagle River reflect small steps that contribute to those disparities.

Why do some attack the poor among us, disparage the “takers” relative to the “makers?” More consistent with fundamental fairness, enlightened self-interest and Christian morality would be efforts to promote institutions and practices that would increase the size of the economic pie and foster equitable sharing of wealth.

Don Parker


and Eagle River

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 11:43 AM


+8 #6 2014-04-21 15:47
Thank God for unions !!!!
-7 #5 Denny Erardi 2014-01-24 18:24
How is it fundamentally more fair to encourage equitable sharing of wealth? That is unfair to those who earned the wealth and undeserved by those who receive it.
There needs to be (and there is) a safety net for those Americans who are in legitimate need of assistance, who've been injured, or infirmed, or just can't find work. But machinists belonging to a union that provides them now with better pay and benefits than many union workers in the country aren't part of that group requiring a safety net.
Boeing is an organization that decidedly contributes to the size of the economic pie, especially in Washington state. A machinist for Boeing makes between $55 and $80,000. That's pretty respectable.
-8 #4 2014-01-24 13:22
I find the comment of "being challenged by China" quite interesting.

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest reason that China is becoming a power house is because we are letting it happen.

We continue to buy goods from China, and lately, it is darn near impossible not to. Whenever possible I buy US made items because I prefer to have something that will last for the rest of my life. I will pay more for it too, and that is fine.

But an even larger concern, is that China has no regulation, or at least very little. While we are constricting environmental laws on citizens of our own country, China pollutes to the Nth degree. Overregulation is killing us.

So, you want to talk about sharing of wealth... Well, we are sharing it with China.
-12 #3 2014-01-24 10:19
The shift to defined compensation plans from defined benefit plans, or the elimination of these benefits entirely is hardly limited to Boeing. You may not like it, but that is the business of today. The pendulum shifts, and it will swing again as power moves from labor to management and back to labor again. It has nothing to do with religion; it is business and politics. The pendulum always swings too far before it is corrected. Your bad luck my be to have been cut in a downturn. Possibly your father, or children's fate was, or will be to be living during an up. The market always corrects itself to meet economic realities. My father has a great pension that has enabled him to live in retired comfort for 25 years. My husband and I, both professionals, have none. We are responsible for our own retirements. Luckily we are bright enough to figure it out. My concern is for those who are not.
-15 #2 2014-01-24 06:29
I am sure Don the Boeing Pensions were unrealistic and unsustainable, like GM's. GM wasn't an auto manufacturing company, it was a pension plan out of control. Just ask our Illinois Governor who bucked his union backers for pension reform in our bankrupt state.
-15 #1 Frank Gabl 2014-01-21 14:17

The Vilas County News-Review does not “promote Christianity in letters from readers,” but rather, “promotes” the free expression from individuals who just happen to be part of the 80% Christian population that comprises this nation, and more likely, 95% in Vilas County.

And the reason “some attack the poor among us, disparage the “takers” relative to the “makers,” is that the “makers” are self-reliant and many of the “takers” (as your use of the word expresses) are freeloading - which has nothing whatsoever to do with
“fundamental fairness, enlightened self-interest and Christian morality” or “efforts to promote institutions and practices that would increase the size of the economic pie and foster equitable sharing of wealth.”

Yet, safety nets for the indigent, disabled, and those legitimately trapped in Barack Obama’s excuse for an economy, are more than plentiful nowadays and sanctioned across all political spectrums.

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