by Paul Bowers
On a recent conference call with news reporters and stock analysts, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney made a quip that got him in hot water with an international machinists' union.
A reporter had asked McNerney if he intends to stay on at Boeing when he turns 65 in August. "The heart will still be beating, the employees will still be cowering, I'll be working hard," McNerney said, according to Bloomberg News. "There's no end in sight. We're continuing to build a succession plan and alternatives to succeed me eventually, but there's no discussion of it yet."
The question came during a conference call after Boeing stock took a sharp $3.03 cent drop Wednesday amid concerns about technical difficulties in building a KC-46A Air Force tanker at Boeing's plant in Everett, Wash. Despite the setback, Boeing — which also operates an assembly facility in North Charleston — reported an increase in its overall profit forecast for the year. And that's part of what irked the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).
"Boeing's CEO would have been far better served to give credit to the workforce that has driven the company's sales and profits to record levels," IAM President Tom Buffenbarger said in a press release today. "Instead, his unfunny and unnecessary remarks serve as reminder that the Jack Welch style of anti-personnel management is still alive and well at Boeing. If he is able to get his foot out of his mouth, the very next thing we hear from Mr. McNerney should be a sincere apology to all employees at Boeing."
At Boeing's North Charleston plant, workers are not unionized, but IAM opened an office on Dorchester Road in March in an attempt to organize workers there. The union already has a fraught history in South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley has repeatedly said that collective bargaining is not welcome. In 2011, IAM complained to the National Labor Relations Board that Boeing had opened its latest facility in anti-union South Carolina in retaliation against workers who had gone on strike in Everett. The NLRB sued Boeing on the union's behalf, and the case was later settled.