Boeing a big topic at rally in Olympia

OLYMPIA — All Dan Nowlin ever wanted to be was an employee of the Boeing Co.

And today he is, working as an equipment engineering technician at the Everett factory.

On Friday, he stood on the steps of the state Capitol with several hundred workers from other unions at a rally where one of the themes was to stop giving Boeing such a generous tax break if it continues reducing its workforce in the state.

“I bleed Boeing blue and I have since I was a little boy,” Nowlin said. “But I believe in accountability for the taxpayer who is paying for those tax breaks.”

Lester Mullen, president of Machinists Local 751A met with lawmakers before the rally to stress the urgency of tightening up the rules for receipt of the tax breaks.

“I told them, (the state) gave the $8.7 billion to Boeing and they promised to maintain and create jobs. Then they promptly turn around and ship jobs out. That’s not fair,” Mullen said. “They make promises and they are not being held accountable.

The hour long rally brought together workers from government and private sector unions. Speakers covered many subjects, most often calling for a higher minimum wage and a strong defense against efforts by Republican state senators to make Washington a right-to-work state.

Roughly 100 members of the International Association of Machinists Local 751 and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) attended.

They cheered loudest when speakers blasted Boeing for shifting 3,000 jobs out of state since November 2013. That’s when the Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee agreed to extend the suite of incentives through 2040 in exchange for the company’s pledge to build the 777X in Everett

“We want some accountability and we’re going to ask for it,” Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, told the crowd.

Jon Holden, president of the Machinists Lodge 751, drew applause when he said, “When we make this investment of our tax dollars, we need to get something for it. If we don’t get a commitment, if we don’t get anything we can count on from these companies, than those tax dollars go down the drain.”

Union leaders say the laws enacted in 2013 should have required Boeing and its suppliers to maintain a minimum number of jobs and set an industry wage standard.

Two bills introduced in this year’s legislative session aim to address the unions’ concerns.

One bill requires aerospace companies pay every one their employees a wage just under $20 an hour to be eligible to receive a tax break. The House Labor Committee, on which Sells is the chairman, approved the bill last week.

The second bill targets Boeing. It would reduce the company’s tax break if its workforce falls below certain levels. The greater the decline, the less tax break the company receives.

The Boeing Co., city of Everett and numerous business organizations oppose the bill, now awaiting a hearing in the House Finance Committee.

For now, Inslee is not taking sides.

“The governor has been consistent in saying how important it is to him that the next generation of Boeing planes be built in Washington, which was made possible with passage of the 777X legislation,” David Postman, Inslee’s executive director of communications, wrote in an email.

“He shares, though, the growing frustration that I think this bill speaks to about the loss of Washington jobs since that package was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature,” he wrote. “The governor will respect the legislative process as that discussion goes on and will reserve any further comment until later.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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