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Boeing: profits flying high! But “Return On Investment” for government, union givebacks is… not so great

Boeing DreamlinerBoeing announced its Third Quarter financials this morning.

net earnings increased 18% to $1.36 billion, or $1.86 per share.  The quarter’s results were strong enough that Boeing increased its full-year guidance: the company is now forecasting full-year earnings per share between $8.10 and $8.30 per share.

Think these better-than-expected profits are the result of skilled CEOing by Jim McNerney (who jokes about “cowering” employees)?

  • What about the record-setting $8.7 billion in tax breaks from the State of Washington?
  • What about the concessions accepted by Boeing’s unions? (who gave up their defined-benefit pension plan in an effort to keep jobs in the Seattle area?)

Think that rosy profit outlook has anything to do with Boeing’s decision to transfer 2,000 engineering jobs from the Seattle area to other, lower-cost places?

Or Boeing’s decision to assemble its Dreamliner exclusively in South Carolina (not Washington State)?

Presumably, this corporate maneuvering is “in the interests of Boeing’s stockholders”… whose dividends increased by more than 50% last year.

Stockholders including Jim McNerney… who at last report, owned more than 466,000 shares of Boeing stock… which, as I do the math, means he’s probably expecting about $340,000 in “unearned income” when Q3 dividends are announced.

Beginning to understand why he’s in a joking mood?

Read our previous Boeing coverage here.

Taxpayers Are Paying Profitable Corporations To Create Jobs?

Toyota GT86 – Frontansicht, 17. September 2012, DüsseldorfWhen word first spread that Toyota was moving jobs from California to Texas, some right-wing talking heads were blaming California’s government.

But within a day, the Wall Street Journal had figured it out: it was actually Texas’ government.  Yes, the newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch broke the story: Texas to Pay $10,000 for Each Toyota Job

Texas offered Toyota $40 million to move, part of a Texas Enterprise Fund incentive program run out of the governor’s office. At $10,000 a job, it was one of the largest incentives handed out in the decade-old program and cost more per job created than any other large award. Last year, Texas spent about $6,800 to lure each of 1,700 Chevron Corp. positions to Houston and $5,800 for each of 3,600 Apple Inc. jobs shifted to Austin.

Ok, so… let me see if I can get this straight.

Toyota just had a second year of record profits.

Toyota wasn’t actively considering locating in Texas.  “Toyota narrowed its preferred locations to Denver, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.” before choosing to move to Texas because of the economic incentives.

$10,000 a job.  Courtesy of Texas taxpayers.

Gosh, it’s a good time to be a corporation.

OK, I need to give the Wall Street Journal some credit here: they have been working the “state economic incentives for jobs” beat for a while now.  From their 2013 story about Washington state’s genuflection to Boeing:

Officials from most of the states Boeing invited to participate have publicly expressed interest. Missouri’s governor, Democrat Jay Nixon, on Tuesday is to sign a package of incentives approved last week by the state’s largely Republican legislature. The measure would be worth $150 million annually to Boeing if the company creates at least 2,000 jobs in Missouri.

Ok, by my math: $150 million a year divided by 2,000 jobs equals $75,000 per job per year… which would have been courtesy of Missouri taxpayers.

Back to their story:

Washington’s legislature last month approved sweeteners valued at $8.7 billion over 16 years—which experts say is the largest corporate-incentive package in U.S. history—in an effort to keep the jobs

And, back to my math: $8.7 billion over 16 years is about $544 million a year – or, more than three times what Missouri offered.

If we’re still talking about 2,000 jobs… that’s about $272,000 per job per year, courtesy of Washington state taxpayers.

Wow.

(Boeing, by the way, just distributed $3 billion as dividends and stock buy-backs.)

Yes, this is what has been going on, all across America.  Billions of dollars in government aid to corporations, even as Congress cut the Food Stamp program and rejected an increase in the minimum wage.

It’s a really good time to be a corporation.

Or a CEO.

Or a lobbyist.

(But not such a good time to be a US veteran.  More than a million veterans are minimum-wage workers who won’t see their pay increase.  And another million veterans just had their Food Stamp allotments cut.  Where are our priorities?)

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

————

Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)

Boeing versus its unions: de ja vu all over again

Boeing DreamlinerOh, dear.

Looks like Boeing’s corporate culture is still stuck in that same old pattern.  Still looking for government handouts, still insisting on concessions from their labor unions.  Or they’ll (once again) move production to a low-labor-cost southern state that is willing to give them lots of money to locate there.   (How much is “lots”? According to Reuters, the package on the table in Washington state is: $8 billion in tax incentives plus another $10 billion in transportation infrastructure.)

Now… myself, I remember (vividly!) a certain NLRB case, the last time Boeing threatened its unions and moved production to a southern state.  Do you think that maybe Boeing didn’t get the memo when the Senate finally confirmed President Obama’s NLRB appointments?

Or is Boeing just trying to create another opportunity to litigate all those anti-worker legal theories, which weren’t tested because the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop that enforcement action?

I, myself, don’t see any significant difference between Reuters’ account of what is happening now and what happened back when Boeing moved Dreamliner production out of Washington.  But maybe that’s just me.

And maybe I’m the only one who thinks that low labor costs don’t lead to high-quality products.

And maybe I’m the only one who thinks that holding local jobs hostage while basically forcing a government to give you money isn’t an honorable way to do business.

But then again, I’m not a Boeing stockholder.

And I’m not likely to fly anywhere on a Dreamliner, any time soon.

Read NHLN’s previous Boeing coverage here.

America’s “Race to the Bottom”: Boeing is still outsourcing

Boeing DreamlinerYesterday, the Boeing Company announced it would “create engineering centers for future work in South Carolina and possibly in Kiev, Ukraine.”

The perspective from Seattle, Washington:

The engineering union here — the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), which represents nearly 26,400 engineers and technical staff — has long decried Boeing’s outsourcing of engineering work to its design center in Moscow.

Boeing internal documents obtained by The Seattle Times in 2004 after the Moscow center was set up show the company could employ high-quality Russian engineers there at ‘approximately 1/3 to 1/5 of the U.S. cost.’

Remember, this is the Boeing Company – manufacturer of the problem-plagued Dreamliner 787. Read “Boeing Learns the Hard Way that Outsourcing Hurts in the Long Run” here.

Most of us would think that “lessons learned the hard way” would maybe change a corporation’s modus operandi.

Most of us would think that maintaining – or restoring? – a reputation for quality workmanship would be particularly important to an airplane manufacturer.

But right now, the American economy is caught in a race to the bottom. These days, CEOs aren’t interested in long-term corporate reputations. They’re interested in profits. And Boeing’s executives have been producing good profits – despite the Dreamliner mess, and despite lower sales.

How? They’ve been so very, very proficient at “controlling costs” – costs such as engineering and skilled manufacturing labor. Read “Boeing profit beats estimates despite 787 problems” here.

And Boeing has rewarded its executives handsomely for their ability to “control costs”. Last year, “key executive” compensation was up almost 55%. And the guy at the top? CEO Jim McNerney received almost $27.5 million. One person. One year. Almost $27.5 million.

(And that doesn’t even include what McNerney receives in Boeing corporate dividends. According to SEC filings, McNerney owns a few hundred thousand shares of Boeing stock, mostly received as part of his executive compensation. That means McNerney receives almost another quarter-million dollars, every time Boeing issues quarterly dividends. And guess what? Those dividends are taxed at a much lower rate than ordinary wages and salaries.)

So yes, America’s economy is still racing toward the bottom. Boeing is hiring engineers at 20 cents on the dollar — and planning even more outsourcing.

How much lower can we go?

————-

More on McNerney’s dividends:

Not that long ago, dividends were taxed as ordinary income. It didn’t matter whether someone’s income came from wages or stock holdings, it was still taxed the same.

One of the many “Bush tax cuts” changed that – and now, stock dividends are taxed at roughly half the rate as CEOs’ salaries.

This morning, I finally added it all up. According to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, over the past decade the “reduced rates of tax on dividends and long-term capital gains” have cost the federal government more than a trillion dollars in revenue ($1,020 billion, since FY2004).

That means almost 6% of the country’s total federal debt is directly attributable to this bizarre tax preference for unearned income.

Now that the stock market is booming, the impact is even greater: expect another $1.3 trillion loss of federal revenue over the next 10 years. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of taxpayers receive almost 70% of the benefit of this tax preference for unearned income.

The rest of us in the 99% get…?

 

UPDATED 1-16: Boeing Learns The Hard Way That Outsourcing Hurts In The Long Run

The Boeing company has been in and out of the media for many years now with the creation of the ‘Dreamliner’.  The Dreamliner is Boeing’s newest airplane that could eventually replace all other international airplanes.  The importance of the Dreamliner not withstanding, Boeing was in every newspaper for another reason.  Their epic battle with the International Association of Machinist (IAM).

Before construction of the new Dreamliner could begin, Boeing wanted to move their manufacturing facility to South Carolina.  Boeing said that space in South Carolina is easier and cheaper to obtain than Washington state where they previously build airplanes.  The IAM said the reason for the abrupt move was a way for Boeing to break their labor contracts and move to a Right To Work state.

This sparked a national conversation about Right To Work.  Couple this with labor’s fight to keep New Hampshire, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin from falling into the Right To Work trap it dominated the news.  Even Presidential candidates began talking about the RTW/Boeing fight.

After all the dust settled and the NLRB ruled that Boeing had the right to move, but not the right to break their contracts the Dreamliner was moving forward.

Now the Dreamliner is in the news once again and not for a good reason.  “Boeing Dreamliner fuel leak traced to valve-related problem.” This is just another example of the problems that Boeing has endured since they decided to use non-union and outsourced products in the construction of these planes.

Boeing has been trying to save money in the construction of the Dreamliner by outsourcing much of the component construction to chinese companies.

“Boeing today announced agreements with Chinese suppliers worth an estimated US$600 million for production of commercial airplane parts and components, including the first firm contract with such suppliers to build parts for the all-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.” (Boeing Press Release)

This outsourcing may have saved them money at first, then again it outsourcing seems to save money at first.  The LA Times reports on Boeing’s headaches over the delays in Dreamliner construction.

“The next-generation airliner is billions of dollars over budget and about three years late; the first paying passengers won’t be boarding until this fall, if then. Some of the delay stems from the plane’s advances in design, engineering and material, which made it harder to build.”

“But much of the blame belongs to the company’s quantum leap in farming out the design and manufacture of crucial components to suppliers around the nation and in foreign countries such as Italy, Sweden, China, and South Korea. Boeing’s dream was to save money. The reality is that it would have been cheaper to keep a lot of this work in-house.” (emphasis added)

The USA Today reports on why the Dreamliner construction is so behind schedule and over budget

“Parts for the jet are made by 52 suppliers scattered around the globe. And, in a first for Boeing, large sections of the jet are built by these outside vendors and then cobbled together. That process, aimed at saving money, wasn’t as smooth as Boeing had hoped.”

After a second Dreamliner at Boston’s Logan airport had problems the FAA has order a full investigation into the problem. This has pushed Boeing stock prices down by $2.50 a share (3.3%).  Proving that outsourcing the manufacturing of these parts is going to cost Boeing even more than they thought.

For nearly fifty years Boeing made airplanes at their manufacturing facility in Everret Washington, by good IAM workers.  Now only a few months after they announce the completion of their 100th airplane Boeing is proving once again that American workers are better and more cost effective.

*     *    *    *

UPDATED 1-16-13

The Federal Aviation Administration has ground all ‘Dreamliners’ until the conduct a full review.

 

NBC News reports

The Canadian Television Network interview an aviation expect to talk about the new features and the FAA grounding all ‘Dreamliners’.  Video Here

 

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