Workers say Boeing tax breaks should come with jobs

By Jerry Cornfield
Everett Herald Writer

OLYMPIA — Machinists and aerospace engineers hiked the halls of Olympia on Friday, asking lawmakers to scale back a lucrative tax break for the Boeing Co. if it continues moving jobs to other states.

They went office-to-office to let lawmakers know much has happened in the two years since the state extended a suite of incentives worth $8.7 billion in tax savings for Boeing, and not all of it good, in their opinion.

As the company ramps up its development of the new 777X passenger jet in Everett, as promised, it has also shed 3,619 jobs, union leaders said Friday. Many of those jobs are getting shifted to states where Boeing can net additional tax breaks by increasing employment, they said.

“They’re double-dipping,” said Adrian Camez, a Machinist in the 787 program at the Everett modification center. “They’re taking our tax incentive, and taking their tax incentives, and taking our jobs to those other states.”

About 200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 751and Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) came to the state Capitol Friday.

They asked lawmakers to consider a bill written by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett.

It would require Boeing maintain a minimum number of jobs to keep its tax break. If the total drops below a prescribed bar, some of the tax break goes away.

“We need some hard incentives that would give aerospace companies more incentive to keep jobs here,” said Rod Siders, a 15-year Boeing employee and member of SPEEA.

Robinson’s bill lapsed in the House Finance Committee in the 2015 session. The committee’s new leader said Friday it’s too soon to say if she’ll reintroduce the legislation in the 2016 session. The 2016 legislative session convenes Jan. 11 and is scheduled to adjourn March 10.

“I am going to be spending a lot of time in the coming weeks talking with stakeholders and getting up to speed on the issues,” said Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, who voted for the tax break extension in 2013. “I am not going to take a hard-line stance on anything.”

Neither Boeing nor IAM and SPEEA disagree that there has been a net loss of jobs since passage of the tax package. At that time, Boeing reported 83,295 employees in the state. Union leaders said the 3,691 jobs cut from the company work force since then comes straight from Boeing’s own reports.

Larry Brown, political director for the Machinists, said that figure should bolster their efforts this year.

“One thing that is different is the number of jobs lost is different. We just continue to lose jobs,” he said.

Boeing, meanwhile, reminds lawmakers that the company is keeping its pledge to build a new plane in Everett and is counting on them to keep theirs in terms of the incentives.

“We expect successful and long production runs of the 777X and firmly believe the tax incentives have the strictest accountability standards of any incentives in the state,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder wrote in an email.

“Claw backs are unnecessary and harmful because they undermine the ability of aerospace companies to respond nimbly to competitive threats,” he wrote. “Claw back provisions added to incentives after Washington companies have already relied on them … are particularly harmful, as they cast doubt on the state’s willingness to stand behind bills that have been signed into law. Such uncertainty would make Washington a less attractive place to do business.”

Meanwhile Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, said Friday he’d like lawmakers to reconsider the approach he offered earlier this year.

He introduced House Bill 2265 to require Boeing sustain at least 79,500 jobs in Washington. Each year, the Employment Security Department would let lawmakers know if the target is being met or exceeded. If it isn’t, then the Legislature can consider a response.

The intent of the 2013 extension was to maintain and grow the aerospace industry but didn’t set a baseline from which to measure gains or losses. He said that’s needed before one can talk about revising an incentive.

“I think this is the most empirically accurate way to do it,” he said.

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