Boeing tax breaks approved amidst union tension

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The fate of Boeing's 777x program is now in the hands of the Machinist's Union.

Lawmakers worked swiftly on Saturday to extend $9 billion of aerospace tax breaks to the Boeing Company, in an effort to secure the manufacturing work that comes with the 777x production in Washington through 2040.

Legislators from both parties touted the importance of the Boeing jobs, especially for the long-term.

"I think the real tipping point here was the incredible work we have in Washington state, and the aerospace industry," Senator Tom Rodney (D) 48th District said.

It's a move that would bring more than 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars of tax revenue to Washington state.

"This is about a sector," Senator Rodney added. "This is about hundreds of companies that are part of a smaller sector."

Even though the tax breaks weren't set to expire for several more years, Inslee called the Legislature back to Olympia this week for a special session dedicated to the Boeing bills. Along with the tax package, lawmakers voted to spend millions of dollars on worker-training programs and an effort to aid permitting for large aerospace manufacturing sites.

While the state says they delivered on their part of Boeing's requirement to keep production in Washington, the other half of the deal now lies in the hands of Boeing Machinists.

The company wants the Machinists Union to accept a new 8 year contract with big cuts, including reduced healthcare, lower wage increases, and replacing Boeing's pension plan with a 401-K.

Many union members say Boeing's extension is loaded with too many takeaways, including less health coverage and less wage increases. However, their biggest concern is replacing Boeing's pension plan with a 401K.

"I would be losing like $300 a month," said union member Kim Melland after she read the proposed deal.

Others posted their disappointment on their union's Facebook page calling Boeing's proposal "extortion."

If the vote fails, Boeing has said it will work on the 777x elsewhere.

Governor Inslee told members of the media that it's up to union members on how to vote for their contact, but sent a strong message about Boeing's role in the state economy.

"We have the assurance of the Boeing Company that with the element of the package that I have been advancing together with the vote of the machinists," said Inslee "In those circumstances, we will land this airplane," Gov. Inslee said.

The legislature also boosted aerospace training programs during this special session.

In the meantime, members of the Machinist Union are expected to vote on a contract Wednesday.