Give-and-take: State gives billions, Boeing takes jobs

SEATTLE — Jon Holden, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, made the following remarks Monday during a press conference marking the two-year anniversary of the signing of a law giving the Boeing Co. $8.7 billion in tax breaks aimed at growing Washington’s aerospace industry.

JonFarleyPresserTwo years ago, our union went to Olympia to ask elected leaders to support $8.7 billion in aerospace tax incentives, because we believed it was an investment that would grow our state’s aerospace industry.

These incentives were first installed in 2003 and were worth $3.2 billion. They were amended in November 2013, exactly two years ago, which added an additional $8.7 billion in tax incentives to maintain and grow good aerospace jobs in Washington.

Unfortunately since then we have seen announcement after announcement where good aerospace jobs are being sent to other states in order to secure more tax incentives — in those states. Over the past two years, our state has lost more than 3,600 Boeing jobs.

Our Machinists Union and SPEEA aren’t waiting for local officials to step up – we’re here today to call on our leaders in Olympia to take action to fix the flaws in our state’s aerospace tax incentive system.

The aerospace industry itself is not shrinking. We are seeing record revenues and record production right now. Our aerospace workers are delivering more airplanes a year at levels previously thought unattainable.

However, Boeing has made a series of purposeful decisions to move jobs out of Washington state because that was the easy way for it to meet job “creation” targets that other states have required Boeing to meet in order to receive their tax incentives.

Other states did it right. Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama and South Carolina already require a specific amount of jobs and capital investment for the tax incentives they were willing to spend. This was responsible of them. We need our state to be responsible as well.

EverettProtestSignThe latest kick to the teeth was Boeing’s announcement in September of a deal to create thousands of jobs in China by moving work that would have otherwise been done by Machinists Union members here in Puget Sound.

Now I’ve heard some analysts and politicians say it’s no big deal that thousands of new Boeing jobs will be created in China instead of Renton. But as a labor leader, I’m here to tell you there’s no way I’d ever look one of our members in the eye and tell them it’s OK for Boeing to give away the job they rely on to keep their family in the middle class, or the job that their children might someday need to build a secure future for themselves and their families.

And as taxpaying citizens of Washington, we all should be outraged that even after we’ve committed to paying $8.7 billion – on top of the $3.2 billion commitment we made in 2003 — Boeing is using our tax dollars to create careers for workers in other states – and other nations.

Every job Boeing moves out of our state diminishes our ability to compete for the next new airplane program.

Our union believes that job requirements should be attached to the aerospace tax incentives, as detailed in Representative Robinson’s bill, House Bill 2147. This is a responsible proposal that will ensure that the citizens of Washington prosper with the jobs the incentives were meant to maintain and grow.

In addition, these tax incentives were meant to maintain and grow good aerospace jobs. There must be a wage standard that companies that accept the tax incentive should meet. Too often these tax incentives are going to highly profitable companies that are paying two-thirds to three-quarters of their employees $15 an hour or less.

That’s why we are also supporting House Bill 1786 to establish this wage standard.

LivingWageSignAerospace jobs should be the type of jobs that bring workers into the middle class. but all too often when a worker is stuck at $10 to $12 dollars per hour they are not making enough to participate fully in the economy. Unfortunately $10 to $12 an hour jobs are the type of jobs that force families to use already-scarce public resources like subsidized housing, state-funded healthcare plans, subsidized school lunches, and the area food banks. These programs are already strapped.

Aerospace jobs are meant to lift families and communities out of poverty, so they can save for the future, buy a home and send their kids to college. But our state has more than 6,000 workers stuck in low-wage aerospace jobs while their employer reaps big tax incentives that are supposed to grow our economy.

Given these realities, we can’t afford aerospace industry tax incentives that don’t grow good jobs in our state. It’s time for the Legislature to act to establish firm employment standards in our aerospace tax incentive law, to ensure Washington’s taxpayers earn an adequate return – in the form of a specific number of good-paying jobs – for the $11.9 billion we’ve committed to investing in the industry since 2003.

Aerospace tax incentive accountability is responsible. Aerospace tax incentive accountability is necessary. The time for aerospace tax incentive accountability is now.

We’ve already lost 3,600 jobs. Let’s not wait until we’ve lost 3,600 more before we decide it’s time to act.

Jon Holden is president and directing business representative of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at Boeing, District 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 working men and women at 52 employers statewide, through a network of local lodges in Seattle, Richland, Spokane and Wentachee.

Click here to tell your representatives in Olympia to support Aerospace Tax Incentive Accountability!

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