Union rejects request to help ‘Build Both’

District 751 has rejected a request from the organizers of the newly formed “Build Them Both” coalition to join with them, saying that the organization’s plan to force the Pentagon to buy tankers from both Boeing and Northrop Grumman is bad for America, bad for the state of Washington and bad for District 751 members.

“We remain fully committed in support of Boeing’s bid to provide all 179 tankers,” District President Tom Wroblewski said in a letter sent Friday to the coalition. “We are actively working on Boeing’s behalf, and we stand ready to build America’s next-generation tanker here in Puget Sound, just as our union forbearers built the KC-135s some 50 years ago.”

The coalition on Friday claimed it was interested in working with the union to help its campaign to force the Pentagon to split the tanker buy — a move officials already have rejected as being too expensive and impractical. “The men and women of America’s labor movement are integral to this effort,” wrote Daniel Kohns, who identified himself as the executive director of the “Build Both” group.

Wroblewski’s letter rejecting the “Build Them Both” request came amid more media reports questioning just who is funding the slick lobbying campaign, which sprang into existence this week. So far, representatives of the group have refused to identify who is putting up the money behind the group.

For the union, however, a split buy is simply bad for America. “Forcing the Pentagon to buy two different types of tankers would greatly increase the Air Force’s operating costs,” Wroblewski wrote. “At a time when many people are concerned about rising federal deficits, it would be irresponsible to force the Pentagon into this money-wasting course of action.”

Wroblewski also rejected the coalition’s assertion that a split buy would create more jobs for Washington state aerospace suppliers. Most of the companies that would supply parts for the proposed Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45 tanker are also suppliers to Boeing, he noted. “If we force the Pentagon to split the tanker buy, it wouldn’t mean twice as much work for those Washington state suppliers — they’d still be building parts for 179 airplanes, some KC-45s and some KC-767s.

“The only difference would be that our members at Boeing would be building fewer tankers, and that would represent a net loss for our state economy,” Wroblewski noted.

And anything that means less work for District 751 members is clearly unacceptable, Wroblewski said.

District 751 is interested in working with anyone — including Northrop Grumman and EADS — who can grow Washington’s aerospace industry and create new opportunities for the union’s 25,000 members, who comprise “the greatest pool of manufacturing talent in North America,” Wroblewski said. But the split tanker proposal doesn’t do that, therefore, “this union cannot support you,” he said.

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