Labor unions that supported the tax incentives for Boeing are now under attack.
IT’S a sure sign the legislative season is well under way when a bill recently supported by unions to create thousands of aerospace jobs in Washington is now being attacked by the same unions as costing jobs.
Why the incredible flip-flop? Opportunistic union politics that threaten the aerospace industry in our state and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that support it.
Just over a year ago, the state’s aerospace future was in doubt. Gov. Jay Inslee responded by proposing an extension to the state aerospace tax incentives that have been in place since 2003 in order to entice Boeing to build the 777X in Washington, with the nearly 60,000 jobs that come with it.
Labor unions helped lead the charge, alongside business leaders and interests from across Washington.
In a display of bipartisanship that is increasingly rare, the governor’s proposal received nearly unanimous support from all legislators and Washington beat out numerous states to win the 777X.
Boeing agreed and made good on its commitment. If you visit its Everett site today, you would see a field of construction cranes as work moves forward on more than $1 billion in investments to build the 777X plane and a composite wing center.
These incentives are also used by more than 450 companies — not just Boeing — and enable them to compete with firms across the world, according to state figures. They are critical to the industry’s success.
Now, with the ink to the bill barely dry, union leaders want to change the law that they previously supported. What they can’t get at the bargaining table with employers they now want to get through playing politics with the state Legislature.
They now claim Boeing’s commitment to build the 777X in Washington and the $21 billion in economic activity that comes with it is costing them jobs. They want the state to mandate employment levels and set minimum wages to among the highest in the country before companies can use the incentives.
The problem is the facts don’t support their newfound criticism of the law. Here are the facts they either ignore or won’t tell you:
Aerospace employment and production in Washington state is at record highs, with more than 130,000 direct jobs and 250,000 associated jobs generating $76 billion in economic activity last year, according to the trade association Washington Aerospace Partnership. Reflecting this growth, membership in the International Association of Machinists 751 has increased since the incentives were first enacted.
This boom time has also flowed into labor’s pockets. The average wage for Boeing’s Washington state employees is $88,000. Moreover, Boeing’s engineering union members received an astonishing 5 percent average annual wage increase every year since 2008, even in the heart of the recent recession.
In a disingenuous shell game, the union leaders say Boeing’s employment has dipped by 2,000 employees in the first year since the incentives were extended. What they don’t tell you is that Boeing added nearly 30,000 employees in the past decade, with more than 3,700 new hires in 2014 alone. Do the math.
The real issue here is how the union leaders conveniently dismiss the $21 billion benefit created by these incentives for the benefit of Washington state. That is how much the state’s own analysis says the incentives will likely generate in state and local tax revenue to pay for vital public services, from schools to human services to roads.
The real issue here is how the union leaders conveniently dismiss the $21 billion benefit created by these incentives”
The Machinists I know are proud, highly skilled and hard-working individuals who are the backbone of the aerospace industry in Washington state. As a former aerospace machinist, it’s disappointing that labor leaders are focusing their resources and attention on negative politics instead of taking advantage of all their gains to advance the needs of their members.
Creating new programs, innovations and partnerships would better secure their membership’s future long term. If union leaders don’t like their collective-bargaining agreements, they should do what union leaders were elected and hired to do: Change them with employers, not the Legislature.
The aerospace tax incentives work. Billions of dollars are being invested, thousands of jobs are being created and more airplanes are being built in Washington state than ever before.
What is the problem the union leaders are trying to fix? Their own political agenda.