Unions seek accountability for aerospace tax breaks

SEATTLE — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 is pursuing legislation that would hold Washington’s aerospace companies accountable for creating middle-class jobs with the state tax incentives they received last winter.

ull mtg johnson talk“We as a state did not agree to $8.7 billion worth of tax breaks for these companies so that they could create minimum-wage manufacturing jobs, and move good-paying engineering jobs out of state,” said District 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown.

The union’s District Council on April 22 unanimously approved a motion calling on the Legislature to amend the tax breaks given to Boeing and the rest of the aerospace industry, to make the companies accountable.

District 751 and SPEEA, the aerospace engineers’ union, plan to work together with the rest of Washington’s labor unions to draft legislation and get it introduced in Olympia in 2015, Brown said.

The April 22 motion didn’t include any specific proposals. But the general idea, Brown said, is that the state should set some minimum pay and employment standards that Boeing and other companies would have to meet in order to share in the tax handouts – similar to those other states have required of Boeing in the past.

“It’s the biggest corporate tax giveaway in U.S. history,” Brown said. “We think it’s fair that there should be a few strings attached.”

The Legislature approved Gov. Jay Inslee’s $8.7 billion tax incentive proposal during a special session in November.

In return for getting the tax break — and steep contract concessions from Machinists — Boeing agreed to put wing fabrication and overall final assembly of the 777X in Washington state. But nothing in the company’s deal with the Legislature requires it to maintain any specific number of workers here in the state, nor does it do anything to address the kinds of jobs that Boeing suppliers might create.

“We know that some non-union aerospace suppliers pay their workers poverty wages,” Brown said. “Companies shouldn’t get public tax subsidies for creating minimum-wage jobs.”

Boeing’s recently announced decisions to ship some 2,000 engineering jobs out of state clearly violates the spirit of the tax incentive agreement, said District 751 President Jon Holden.

“The citizens of Washington are paying Boeing with tax dollars to create engineering jobs here, not in California or Missouri or South Carolina,” Holden said. “If that doesn’t violate the letter of the law, then we need to change the law.”

Brown said representatives from District 751 and SPEEA plan to meet with legislators in May to set up meetings to discuss the problems with the current law and potential solutions.

The unions also are drafting resolutions to the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and Washington State Labor Council, asking for their support in making this a top legislative priority for organized labor in 2015.

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 32,000 working men and women at 50 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

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