September marked the 86e anniversary of the start of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751. The district came together to fight for dignity and fairness, which resulted in the first labor agreement with Boeing over a year ago late in 1936.
The fight wasn’t just about Boeing. It was a battle to ensure that our union and the state of Washington would develop the aerospace industry, which would have a significant impact on generations of working families through well-paying jobs and benefits. Today, IAM District 751 represents more than 26,000 workers in the aerospace industry.
Our industry faces many challenges ahead. The challenges that existed before the onset of a pandemic revealed vulnerabilities in the aerospace industry. Around the same time last year, thousands of workers in our state were unsure of their future, and some suffered the worst fate of the pandemic. Over 100,000 aerospace jobs were lost last year, many in our state. The aerospace industry is vitally important to our national security, our national supply chain and the economy of our state.
IAM leadership, along with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and the rest of the Washington Congressional delegation, have led efforts to pass legislation to provide much-needed relief and prevent even worse layoffs for workers. the aerospace manufacturing and maintenance, overhaul and repair industries.
The Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act, part of the US bailout relief legislation passed by Congress, provided $ 3 billion in payroll support funds to aircraft manufacturers, allowing them to keep tens of thousands of aerospace manufacturing workers on their payroll.
The Seattle Times recently reported that the Biden administration made $ 482 million of this relief legislation available to manufacturers in the aircraft industry, to help them avoid job or pay cuts during the pandemic. That includes $ 41 million for our state’s aerospace companies. The largest recipient of the funds, according to the Times, is Spirit AeroSystems, a company represented by IAM and a major Kansas-based supplier to Boeing, which is expected to receive $ 75.5 million that the government says will help protect 3,214 jobs. .
As a result of this legislation and other actions, Washington’s economy is rebounding. But we have to ask ourselves, where do we go from here?
The Washington Congressional delegation and IAM continue to work on solutions to secure the aerospace workforce for the future and protect one of our last major manufacturing industries.
Washington State’s aerospace industry has been critical to the resumption of growth in Washington’s economy. It’s a $ 70 billion industry with more than 130,000 workers and supporting more than 250,000 jobs, according to the Washington Department of Commerce.
We need to reassess the future of America’s last great industry and ask ourselves if we are doing enough to support our aerospace industry. The Biden-Harris administration told us about their commitment to build back better. We know that our congressional delegation worked diligently to pass legislation to improve the aerospace industry.
They have kept their promise by presenting to Congress a “build back better” plan that will impact generations of working American families by creating good union jobs with solid wages and benefits. Buying US rules included in this package will strengthen our US aerospace industry and increase well-paying union jobs.
But we remain concerned that companies continue to transfer American technology overseas and move American jobs overseas. During a recent roundtable discussion with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other union leaders in the region, I called for an immediate Chinese recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX built by IAM. I also highlighted concerns about China’s growing aerospace footprint.
We have stressed the importance of focusing efforts on a worker-centered trade policy and sounding the alarm bells on the transfer of technology and jobs from the United States to China if we are to continue to maintain our No.1 ranking. in aerospace sales, exports, profits and employment. Chinese government subsidies to its aerospace industry create an unfair playing field.
We are committed to doing our part to remain # 1 in the world by investing in our state’s workforce and determining what role Washington’s aerospace workers will play in emerging technologies to reduce emissions in the sector. of aviation through improvements in aviation technology and fuels and operational improvements.
We need to make sure that all efforts in this area are designed, manufactured and built in the United States. These improvements should focus on the US aerospace industry and include good middle class jobs in all of our communities. We can also ensure that research and development, testing and evaluation of sustainable aviation technology stays here in the United States. We should not see our technology ceded to other countries for the sale of planes, thus creating competent competitors.
IAM District 751 has repeatedly called for an increase in registered apprenticeship programs. We were thrilled to receive a $ 10 million grant dedicated to training the next generation of aerospace workers while providing better access for women, people of color, military veterans and young workers. These programs have the infrastructure to ensure that the skills learned are well balanced and transferable to many industries so that a worker can use them anywhere in the country.
Advancing these solutions is how to build a better future that will skyrocket our state’s economy while protecting the rights of Washington state aerospace workers to organize, to be safe in the world. work and achieve economic justice.