Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Corp, Bad Corp

Kudos to the Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids for respecting the hard work of their employees.
On October 3, Local 386 members employed at Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ratified a new contract. The new agreement increases wages and pension benefits, while protecting health care coverage and increases sickness and accident and life insurance coverage. [...]

The five-year contract contains wage increases totaling 11 percent over the course of the agreement, and the company’s contributions to the employees’ RWDSU pension will increase by $2 per week each year. By the last year of the contract, the company will be contributing $80 per week to the plan.
I've always liked and bought Country Fresh products, and now I have another reason to remain a loyal customer. Not only do I help the company's profits, but I help the 156 employees who overwhelmingly voted to ratify the contract.

The polar opposite of Country Fresh is Boeing. The company decided to put a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. Boeing claims they chose right-to-work South Carolina in part "because of frustration with labor strife in Seattle, where four strikes in the past 20 years by the machinists union delayed deliveries." However, according to the Seattle PI, the union offered a 10-year, no-strike contract and was willing to discuss a longer agreement to get Boeing to commit to locating the second 787 line in Everett, Washington.

And this little tidbit from the same article is infuriating:
Boeing already took billions in tax credits and handouts... Now, the company is taking the jobs promised by the 787 program and leaving Washington workers and taxpayers high and dry.
What's the company getting from South Carolina? A package that eliminates income and other taxes for a decade and the state will provide low-interest construction bonds.

The problem with all these incentives according to this journalist is that they're a downward spiral on our race to the bottom.
Of course the problem isn't a lack of "commitment" to the aerospace industry in a region where generations of workers have devoted their lives to making Boeing planes. The problem is that people in Washington just don't come as cheap. We have this bad habit of paying people a decent wage, and providing good unemployment pay and benefits for people who are injured on the job--all things that apparently must change if we're to be competitive.

But then, if you consult the advocacy groups trying to insure the "competitiveness" of South Carolina, they say the same thing. "South Carolina's workers' compensation costs are the highest in the Southeast for small business" frets the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, a group that works to improve the business climate in Boeing's new home. They won't be satisfied until South Carolina's "climate" has been made as cheap as Georgia's, Tennessee's, and Virginia's.

And on down it spirals. It's not a winnable game, not if we want to keep any allegiance to our own values. In a few years, Boeing will be playing S.C. off Mississippi.
Boeing could learn a few things about values from Country Fresh.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

1 comment:

Lew Scannon said...

Country Fresh understands that if you don't have consumers who can afford to buy your product, you end up with a lot of sour milk on your hands.
Boeing just has a lot of sour grapes for it's workers and likes to leave a sour taste in taxpayer's mouths. Perhaps the people of South Carolina should see how Boeing treated the taxpayers of Washington before they approve of this deal.