Aerospace wage standards bill passes first vote

OLYMPIA — Substitute House Bill 1786, which would set a voluntary wage standard for aerospace companies that accept a share of the Washington’s $8.7 billion aerospace tax break, was approved by the House Labor Committee by a 4-3 vote on Feb 17.

GregersonThe bill was amended before the vote, to clarify that companies would have to pay employees with three years’ experience at least the state’s median wage, which is currently $19.67 an hour. The requirement would be phased in over three years.

Companies would have the option to give up the tax incentive and continue to pay low wages. If they did, the increased taxes that they would pay would be earmarked for providing public services low-wage workers need to survive, like free school lunches for their children.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-SeaTac) called the legislation “commonsense and reasonable.”

“I love this bill because it starts the conversation about being fair and transparent,” she said.

The three Republicans on the committee — Reps. Graham Hunt (R-Orting), Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) and Gina McCabe (R-Goldendale) — all voted no.

Representatives of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 had testified in support of the bill during a hearing on Feb. 9.

Washington taxpayers are paying twice for aerospace supplier jobs, District President Jon Holden told the legislative panel — with tax breaks that directly go to the companies’ bottom lines, and by paying for welfare programs that provide the working poor with food and shelter that they can’t afford with their tiny paychecks.

“Too many employers are paying the majority of their employees less than $15 an hour,” Holden testified. “They’re stuck having to use the social safety net, and work 50 to 60 hours a week to survive.”

Do you think aerospace companies should have to meet some basic performance metrics before they collect a maximum incentive? Click here to let your legislators know that you do — and expect them to do so as well.

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