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Unions Want Tougher Tax Breaks That Make It Harder For Boeing To Move Jobs

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
In this photo taken Wednesday, May 29, 2013, a Boeing 777 jet is partially surrounded by scaffolding while being assembled at the company's production plant in Everett, Washington.

Unions representing Boeing engineers and machinists are pushing Washington state lawmakers to toughen a package of aerospace tax breaks passed last year. They’re aiming to make it harder for Boeing to move work out of state.

Last November, state legislators met in a quick special session to pass a suite of aerospace tax incentives totaling more than $8.5 billion. They were aimed at enticing Boeing to build its new wide-body 777x jet here. Since then, Boeing has announced plans to move 4,000 jobs out of state.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, and the International Association of Machinists are trying to get legislators to change the tax breaks. Chelsea Orvella, SPEEA’s legislative director, says the unions want to see tougher language that would make it harder for companies to move jobs away and still get the tax breaks.

“We want to incentivize job creation here in Washington, not incentivize jobs leaving Washington,” Orvella said.

The state’s aerospace director Alex Pietsch says the incentives passed last year were stronger than the original ones passed a decade ago. He says they ensure that Boeing will not build the 777x anywhere else. But he says it’s hard to put a Boeing-specific job target in the legislation because it applies to the whole industry.

“Four hundred and fifty companies in this state benefited from these tax incentives, not just one,” Pietsch said.

In a statement, Boeing said the tax breaks have worked. The company has added almost 30,000 jobs here since 2004. Still, Orvella says that the unions have found sympathetic ears among some legislators. She says she’s hopeful legislation will be introduced in the next session to toughen the tax incentives.  

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.