Machinists tell Congress: Support Export-Import Bank

WASHINGTON, D.C. — District 751 Machinists are once again fighting in Congress for a federal program that helps the Boeing Co. sell airplanes – and keeps aerospace workers employed.

LegConfA delegation of IAM 751 Machinsts were in the Capitol meeting with Senators in May, as part of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers’ annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

There were two top items on the union’s agenda for the meeting: Ensuring the continued existence of the Export-Import Bank, and proposing legislation that would protect the pensions of workers whose companies have frozen their pension funds.

The Export-Import Bank is an independent federal government agency that supports American companies who sell their products overseas. It does this by offering loan guarantees to foreign buyers – essentially offering to co-sign loans for them. This enables the foreign buyers to get financing for big-ticket purchases, like Boeing airplanes.

A prime example: Lion Air’s 2012 purchase of 230 737s – the biggest deal in Boeing history – was made possible because of Export-Import Bank loan guarantees that allowed the airline to finance the deal.

The Export-Import Bank does not rely on taxpayer dollars to make these deals. Instead, it generates its own revenues through fees and interest payments. Over the past five years, it has returned $2 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

Other nations subsidize their manufacturing industries to the hilt, to help them make overseas sales. The Canadian government, for example, provides three times the level of support that the United States does, while Chinese exporters get 11 times as much government support.

“Roughly 70 percent of the planes we build for Boeing are sold to airlines and leasing companies outside the United States,” said Larry Brown, the legislative director for Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “That creates good-paying union jobs, which exist in no small part because the Export-Import Bank helps us compete with our massively subsidized foreign competitors.”

Despite the obvious benefits, Tea Party conservatives have once again targeted the Export-Import Bank for extinction, saying that the U.S. government should not intervene in trade, even when it creates jobs for American workers at no cost to taxpayers.

The Machinists delegation met with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to make sure they understand how important this issue is to our union and our state, Brown said.

The union delegation also brought up the issue of potential changes in the law to protect frozen pension funds.

Under current law, companies who have frozen their workers’ pensions can then sell them off to insurance companies, which would provide workers with reduced benefits after they retire. With Boeing pensions set to freeze in 2016, District 751 is working to get federal legislation that would ensure union members receive the retirement benefits they worked for years to earn.

“Both Murray and Cantwell said they’d work with us on these issues,” Brown said.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, IAM District 751 now represents more than 32,000 working men and woman at 50 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

Check out our award-winning IAM 751 YouTube channel.

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