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Gov. Inslee Uninvited from WA Labor Council Convention Over Boeing Tax Credit Accountability

Inslee Machinists Convention

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Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee planned to speak at the Washington State Labor Council’s annual convention, but his appearance has been canceled due to resentment from union members surrounding Inslee’s role in an $8.7 billion tax break for Boeing.  Originially invited to headline the event — where prominent Democrats including Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant are also scheduled to speak — Inslee’s recent track record with respect to the Machinists union was too much too bear.

Jeffrey Johnson, President of the Labor Council, explained his decision to The Seattle Times:

“I have enormous respect for the governor and the things he’s trying to do,” Johnson said Monday. He praised Inslee’s work on transportation, climate change and “support of public employees and the common good.”

But, Johnson said, tensions persist over Inslee’s role in securing Boeing’s record-setting $8.7 billion tax break and his pressure on the Machinists union to vote on a contract that ended workers’ defined-benefit pension plan.

“Feelings are pretty raw with a lot of our members, a lot of our unions,” Johnson said. The resentment goes beyond just Boeing-affiliated unions, he added.

The theme of the event is “Fighting Inequality,” and attendees are upset that Inslee won’t support a union-backed push to tie aerospace tax credits to job and wage targets.  Two inequality-fighting bills have died in legislature partially due to Inslee’s absence on the issues.

“We’re still not satisfied with his position,” Johnson said.  “We would like him to be more clear about supporting accountability in these tax measures.”

Labor’s legislative push came after Boeing received tax credits and then moved production of its 777x Dreamliner to anti-union South Carolina.  Inslee then applied pressure on the Machinists union to accept a contract that ended their traditional pension plans.  Boeing’s CEO Jim McNerney, on the other hand, is set to retire with a pension that will pay him $3.9 million each year for the next 15 years. This pension has long been in his contract but was not disclosed until the announcement of his retirement.  

Inslee spokesperson David Postman said in an email that the Governor has “a lot of respect” for the labor council.  Postman added:

“There is disagreement on this one. But there is also a mutual commitment to keep talking about it, and we welcome that conversation.”

Johnson said the decision to bump Inslee does not mean he will not be invited to future events. 

“He won’t be speaking at this (convention), but we’re going to continue our discussion to put a little more accountability into these tax incentives.  It’s time to revisit the issue.”


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