An Open Letter to the Washington State Legislature:
Yesterday, the Boeing Company announced that they intended to move production to South Carolina in order to have planes built by inexperienced non-union workers making an average of less than $14 per hour rather than having planes built by highly skilled and highly experienced union workers in Washington State making an average of $26 per hour.
This is one more step in what many have called the “disappearing Boeing Airplane” during the past 20 years. While some have blamed the union and/or the Legislature for this problem, the truth is that both the union and the Legislature have made billions of dollars in concessions to the Boeing company. These billions of dollars in concessions were then used by Boeing to help finance their multi-billion dollar plant in South Carolina.
This latest decision by Boeing’s upper management is perplexing because the South Carolina plant has already made numerous errors which set back production of the Boeing Dreamliner by years. Further investment in South Carolina appears to be throwing good money after bad and places the future of the entire Boeing Company in doubt. This is not just my opinion. It is also the opinion of nearly every airline industry analyst. The upper management of the Boeing Company appears to be cutting their own throat- as well as sticking a knife in the back of aerospace workers in the State of Washington.
This problem concerns me because my grandfather, William Gunnerud, helped start the Machinists Union in the 1940’s and spent his whole life building Boeing Airplanes. Many members of my family worked for Boeing. While there may not be much we can do about the reckless decisions of Boeing’s upper management, there are some steps we can and should take now to protect the aerospace industry and aerospace workers here in the State of Washington.
The Legislature should draft and pass a bill authorizing public–private aerospace partnerships. We attempted to do this in giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to Boeing in the past 10 years. But the money was given away without any conditions. In hind sight, that was a mistake. This new partnership must include several specific conditions:
· First, it must include an employee cooperative so that the employees are the owners of the company. Employees are much less likely to outsource their jobs than employers. Also, Washington State has a long history of successful cooperatives (such as Group Health Coop) and we should form a similar public private aerospace partnership here in Washington State.
· Second, such a cooperative should receive the maximum possible tax advantages including exemption from our State sales and B & O taxes for at least the next ten years and until such time that it turns a profit of at least one billion dollars.
· Third, as a condition of receiving these billions of dollars in tax breaks, this new employee owned company would agree that as much production as possible, including sub-contractor work, would occur here in the State of Washington.
· Fourth, should this new company ever leave the State of Washington, they would be required to pay back all tax breaks given to them.
· Finally, in order to pay for the tax breaks to be given to this new company, we should immediately eliminate any further tax breaks to the Boeing Company and require them to pay their full share of State sales taxes and B & O taxes. In short, we should only give tax breaks to companies who are committed to protecting and preserving the aerospace industry here in the State of Washington.
We may not be able to do much about the upper management of Boeing committing suicide, but we can and should protect the aerospace industry and aerospace workers in Washington State from going down with them. I therefore hope you will consider drafting such a bill for consideration and approval during the 2010 legislative session.
David Spring, M. Ed.