Striking Machinists at Boeing ask: How do you hide $13 billion?

“How do you hide $13 billion? Do you stuff it in an airplane? Do you give it to the CEO? Or, do you share it with your workers?”

These questions are printed on union flyers being distributed by thousands of striking Boeing workers at locations in Washington state, Oregon and Kansas as the total shutdown of the nation's largest airplane maker entered its second day.

Unprecedented profits now being made by Boeing are fueling the anger of the 27,000 workers who shut down the giant corporation Sept. 6.

Tom Wroblewski, who heads the union's negotiating committee, said that in the last five years Boeing has reported after tax profits of more than $13 billion - an increase of over 828 percent from the prior five year period.

“Yet Boeing continues to offer proposals more fitting of a company in bankruptcy,” he said.

Boeing says it is not in a position to pass along increased pay and benefits costs to customers.

“We agree,” said Wroblewski, “The costs should come out of their increased profits - not be passed along to the airline customer.”

The union says Boeing will come up with many additional excuses as to why it shouldn't share its profits with its workers but that the unprecedented backlogs of unfilled orders from all over the world, together with the record profits, constitute almost a moral imperative that the workers should see some benefit. The union makes no secret of the fact that it considers itself to be in a very strong bargaining position. “They need the workers,” a union source said, “they are hiring workers every day and they still can't fill the back orders.”

It is against that backdrop that workers became particularly angry when the company proposed not increases but cutbacks in benefits when it made its final offer.

Boeing demanded, for example, that a family of three should pay a maximum of $6,000 in out-of-pocket health care costs, up from the current $4,000 maximum. In addition, it proposed slashing of both vision and dental care benefits.