Holden: Unions committed to tax break accountability

The unions for aerospace workers in Washington are committed to advancing legislation that ensures the $8.7 billion tax package granted to the Boeing Co. and its suppliers last year actually grows the state’s aerospace industry.

JonCrossedArmsThat’s the message that Jon Holden, president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, gave in his monthly message to union members.

“It’s a big lift — Boeing and its suppliers don’t want to be held accountable, and they’ve got a well-funded political machine,” Holden said.

But District 751 is working together with SPEEA — the union for aerospace engineers and technical workers — on what the unions are calling the Aerospace Tax Incentives Accountability Act, he said. “We’re going to push forward, and if all 33,000 IAM 751 Machinists and all 25,000 SPEEA engineers and techs speak as one, then the players in Olympia will have to listen and we’ll be able to make some meaningful change in our state.”

Holden’s message is in the most-recent edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

JonOlympia1Holden informed union members about his recent testimony before the Citizens Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences, a seven-member panel that reviews Washington state tax incentives and gives the Legislature recommendations on whether to continue, modify or terminate them.

He told the panel that Washington needs a better method of calculating whether the tax incentives are working. Simply comparing today’s employment figures with 2003 isn’t enough: In 2003, Boeing and its suppliers were in the midst of eliminating more than 30,000 jobs in the most-brutal industry crash since the infamous “Boeing Bust” of 1970-71, Holden said. “The reality is that with or without tax incentives, aerospace employment in our state today would be higher than 2003, because the world aerospace market rebounded.”

The unions also want to see some strings attached to the aerospace industry tax breaks, to ensure “taxpayers get a return on our $8.7 billion investment,” Holden said.

“As the law currently stands, there is no requirement to maintain any quantifiable level of aerospace jobs,” he said. “Boeing and its suppliers are free to keep every dime of Washington state tax incentives while moving thousands of Washington state jobs.”

That’s exactly what Boeing is doing, Holden said. Over the past 18 months, the company has moved 6,300 jobs from Washington to California, Missouri, Oklahoma — even Russia.

“It’s not some ‘theoretical figure,'” he said. “It’s the number of Washington state citizens whose futures are in doubt. It’s the number of Washington state families that have been thrown into chaos.”

AIMRally2The unions also want to see some sort of wage standard for the companies that accept the tax incentives.

In 1983, the average wage for Machinists at Boeing was $12 an hour, Holden noted. Three decades later, non-union workers at aerospace companies statewide still are being paid $12 an hour to work on parts that go into Boeing airplanes.

“It’s not possible to raise a family on $12 an hour. It’s barely possible for a single person to keep a roof over the head,” Holden said. “There are thousands of Washington state residents — some of them our relatives and neighbors — who are stuck in this kind of poverty, building critical parts for $200 million airplanes.”

The only way for those people to survive, he continued, is to rely on public assistance — food stamps, subsidized housing and free lunches for their children at school. That’s not right for them, or for taxpayers.

“It is not fair to ask Washington taxpayers,” Holden said “to give money directly to companies to ensure they keep jobs in our state, and then ask the taxpayers to also give money to the workers who fill those jobs.”

For all those reasons, the union is moving forward with the draft legislation, Holden said. “This is the right thing to do, for our state, our communities, our industry and for those 6,300 families whose lives have been turned upside down.”

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you can read:

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 33,000 working men and women at 51 employers in Washington and California.

To contact a IAM 751 officer to learn about how you can join the Machinists Union, click here.

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