Seattle Socialist Goes Wobbly Over Boeing
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Seattle Socialist Goes Wobbly Over Boeing

20131113sawant-600x399While we’ve grown accustomed to finding conservatives longing for a mythical Mayberry-era that never, in fact, actually existed, we expect those on the left to be perpetually forward-looking. So it’s rather disconcerting to see ‘progressives’ get nostalgic for the mostly mythical past. Usually such longing for the good ol’ days comes from ex-hippies missing the free love and cheap drugs of the 1960s. But on rare occasions the radical left dips back even further. Like to the 1930’s-era anarcho-syndicalism of the Industrial Workers of the World (aka “Wobblies).

That seems to be the period favored by the avowed socialist and Seattle City Councilmember-elect Kshama Sawant. The machinists union of the Washington-based Boeing recently rejected a contract guaranteeing jobs for the next eight years in exchange for new workers giving up their guaranteed company pensions. Now Boeing is threatening to take those jobs to other states. Instead of advocating for a compromise, Sawant has a different plan:

“That will be nothing short of economic terrorism because it’s going to devastate the state’s economy,” she said.

Sawant is calling for machinists to literally take-possession of the Everett airplane-building factory, if Boeing moves out. She calls that “democratic ownership.”

“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say the machines are here, the workers are here, we will do the job, we don’t need the executives. The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do,” she said.

Sawant says after workers “take-over” the Everett Boeing plant; they could build things everyone can use.
“We can re-tool the machines to produce mass transit like buses, instead of destructive, you know, war machines,” she told KIRO 7.

Sawant says she was referring to “drones” when speaking of war machines. Still, she says even as they work on the lines, building airplanes daily, she believes Boeing workers are under siege.

“Workers have to realize, they have more power than they think,” she said.

One of the traits about the radical left that is alternately charming and frightening is their cluelessness about how the real world actually works. The idea that Boeing will just leave billions of dollars worth of equipment behind when they leave is silly enough. But the idea that the remaining workers could just “re-tool the machines” to make buses shows that Sawant doesn’t actually understand what the “workers of the world” do when they unite from 9 to 5.

What makes this particular situation more quaint than alarming is there is almost no chance the union members will take Sawant seriously enough to act on her agitation. The workers may not have a PhD in economics like Sawant does (seriously, she has a PhD in economics), but they are educated enough to know that you can’t literally take-possession of the airplane factory. While they may not be able to explain why the world doesn’t work that way, they at least have an intuitive understanding of the importance of the rule of law and a respect for private property. The are hardworking people who merely want to hold on to a type of union contract that is no longer economically feasible. They aren’t looking to illegally seize the factors of production; they just want to keep their factory jobs and live a productive life.

Perhaps that is a true sign of “progressivism” that the proletariat is now less interested in violent protest than they are in keeping their corporate-funded pensions.

(Via: Matthew Yglesias)

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).