America’s military tankers should say ‘Made in USA’

Like many people raised in the Puget Sound region, multiple generations of my family, including myself, have worked for the Boeing Co. For years, my union, the workers who build Boeing aircraft, has appealed to Boeing, “don’t export our jobs — export our airplanes.” This demand has not changed.

As many Washington state citizens are well aware, our pleas have fallen on somewhat deaf ears. While we continue to maintain a fairly significant workforce here in the Puget Sound area — nearly 24,000 Machinists at this time — it is nowhere near the peak of the 1980s, when our community had nearly 45,000 Machinists constructing aircraft from Auburn to Everett, and building what continues to be the safest, most reliable, and certainly the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world.

Throughout the ’80s, ’90s and now into the new millennium, Boeing has outsourced work that many feel belongs right here in the Puget Sound region, along with parts that should be manufactured in Washington, Kansas and Oregon. All three regions are involved in a collective bargaining agreement that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union has held with Boeing since 1935.

The global environment that has put extreme pressures on Boeing to outsource commercial airplane work overseas in order to sell commercial aircraft abroad has certainly cost many a young person from our communities the opportunity that I had, to share in an industry that was born in our community and that leads the way in economic viability for working families. I have never agreed with this outsourcing philosophy and I have certainly never embraced it.

However, I want to acknowledge that Boeing, myself, and my union are now on the same page — on the issue of the U.S. Air Force tanker. Boeing does place work in communities across the United States. The impending decision by the U.S. government on who should build the next U.S. Air Force Tanker is a $40 billion decision.

It should be built by American workers using parts made in the United States of America. It should be built by American workers working for an American business. That American business is Boeing. It is the only real American aviation company in the competition. Boeing is not financed by an overseas aviation consortium. American tax dollars should support an American company, and I believe that our elected representatives from all of our United States should support the Boeing 767 tanker program.

American workers, their families, and our communities ought to benefit from the expenditures of American funds. This is not an incidental commercial sale. This is a long-term program that could last 15 to 20 years. That’s a long time for our country to rely on foreign countries to supply vital portions of our national defense; we need to depend on and defend ourselves!

Equally as important, from my perspective, is that this is far too many jobs for our country to simply give away. We all have family and/or friends who live in a community that can benefit from the Boeing 767 Air Force tanker program. Good jobs like the jobs at Boeing mean good communities and good citizens who give back to those communities, and we all share in that success. It means good schools, good jobs, better transportation, better services, safer streets and more consumers for our businesses. The list of positives is endless and the arguments against are pointless.

The Boeing product is vastly more efficient than the competitor’s and will thereby cost the taxpayers who ultimately support it far less in taxpayer dollars. It has a proven track record of success, and uniquely complements every other piece of aviation equipment in the U.S. military inventory. Long term dividends will be paid on this American taxpayer investment in this technically superior product.

I urge all citizens of the United States to contact their congressional representatives to urge their support, and demand their efforts to gain the support of their peers from other states to secure this project for the good of the communities surrounding Puget Sound, and the rest of the nation.

Mark A. Blondin of Everett is the national aerospace coordinator responsible for all affairs of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers as related to the Boeing Co. in the United States and Canada.

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