Obama: Boeing & workers example for America
“American workers have never been more productive,” the President said. “Companies like Boeing are finding out that even when we can’t make things faster or cheaper than China, we can make them better. Our quality can be higher.
“That,” said Obama, “is how we’re going to compete.”
Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 1,500 Boeing employees and about 100 Washington state VIPs gathered in one end of the Everett factory where 787s are assembled. The group included the International Association of Machinists’ International President Tom Buffenbarger and General Vice Presidents Mark Blondin and Rich Michalski.
After the speech, those three International Machinists Union leaders and Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski joined Boeing CEO Jim McNerney and other executives for a meeting with Obama.
The President complimented the union and company leaders for their ability to work together, Wroblewski said, specifically mentioning the recent contract extension vote that guaranteed production of the 737 MAX in Puget Sound.
“We talked about the assembly line and the amount of jobs here,” Wroblewski said. “It was nice to be able to talk with him.”
Obama started his speech by noting that Air Force One had been built by Boeing workers in Everett 25 years ago. “It’s flying smooth,” he said. “I get to see your handiwork in action every day.”
Obama continued by stressing the importance of re-building American manufacturing. Decades of outsourcing have been “incredibly painful for a lot of families and a lot of communities” and it’s not possible for all the lost jobs to come back.
“But that does not mean that we’ve got to just sit there and settle for a lesser future,” Obama said.
“I want us to make stuff. I want us to sell stuff,” he said. “When we make stuff and we’re selling stuff, that creates jobs beyond just this plant. It raises standards of living for everybody.”
To do that, Obama proposed specific revisions to U.S. corporate tax laws.
“Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas,” he said. “If you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money instead should be used to cover moving expenses for companies that are deciding to bring jobs back home – that’s who should be getting tax breaks.”
Obama also proposed a basic minimum tax for all U.S.-based multinational corporations, tax cuts for American manufacturers – particularly in high-tech fields – and help for companies that relocate to economically distressed areas.
“Congress should send me these tax reforms,” he said. “I’ll sign them right away.”
Obama also called on Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank. That’s a federal agency that provides loan guarantees to help foreign buyers get financing to buy from U.S. manufacturers.
The recent order of 230 737s from Lion Air of Indonesia is a great example of how the Export-Import Bank can help Boeing win business overseas, Obama said.
The President said he had created a trade enforcement unit to investigate unfair trade practices overseas. “American workers … can compete with anybody,” he said. “You will out-work anybody, as long as the playing field is level.”
And Obama said the U.S. government needs to continue to invest money into basic research in science and technology. Many of the 787’s systems build upon technology developed by NASA engineers, he noted.
“We’ve got to support this kind of cutting-edge research,” Obama said. “”We need to maintain our innovative edge, so that jobs and industries take root right here in the United States.”
Boeing has hired 13,000 people nationwide in the past year – including 5,000 new workers in Everett, and the President said called the company “a great example of what American manufacturing can do in a way that nobody else in the world can do it.”
America needs to do more of this, Obama said, “but to keep it going, the last thing we can’t afford to do is go backwards … We can’t go back to an economy that was weakened by outsourcing and bad debt and phony financial profits.
“Above all,” Obama concluded, “we’ve got to renew the values that have always made this country great: hard work, fair play and shared responsibility. These are not Democratic values or Republican values. These are American values.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members approved a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
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