Labor

Socialist Seattle Councilmember Says Boeing Workers Should Take Over Factory

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During a rally for unionized Boeing workers, Kshama Sawant, a recently elected Seattle City Councilmember and self-identified socialist, told her supporters that Boeing workers should consider taking over the factory.

Kshama Sawant Election Speech/Youtube screengrab

Sawant, who ran on a platform to raise the Seattle minimum wage to $15 per hour, unionize Amazon and Starbucks, increase rent control, and "reduce the unfair tax burden on small businesses, homeowners, and workers," has been making big headlines for her electoral victory earlier this week. She is one of the first Socialist party candidates to win a major city's election in decades. Now, just days after entering office, she is stirring crowds with radical declarations.

The Boeing Machinists Rally was held on Monday in response to contract negotiation disputes between Boeing management and union representatives. The union rejected a contract proposal that would have guaranteed workers jobs for eight years to build the new 777X airliner in exchange for new employees giving up their company pensions.

Boeing representatives responded that the company does not plan to reopen a conversation with the union to renegotiate. Instead, representative Raymond Connor said that the company would consider moving its operations out of state and possibly out of the country. Angered by Boeing's announcement, supporters of the union gathered to hear Sawant speak.   

Sawant told the crowd: "[If Boeing leaves], that will be nothing short of economic terrorism because it's going to devastate the state's economy."

Her solution? Simply don't allow them to leave. According to KIRO TV, the Councilmember advocated a worker takeover of the means of production:

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. The workers should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing's profit-making machine.

Once workers take over operations, Sawant argued that they should switch from producing "war machines" to public transit vehicles like buses.

Slate's Matthew Yglesias derided Sawant's proposal as unrealistic idealism:

Can Boeing's front-line workers actually retool an airplane factory and turn it to bus production and win contracts to sell buses that raise enough revenue to keep everyone employed? Only time will tell for sure, but in the real world the answer is "no." This is exactly what you need executives for. Retooling plants, establishing relationships with suppliers and customers, understanding the size of the market for buses, and all that other stuff is a non-trivial task.