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Boeing's Puget Sound Job Cuts Have Unions Questioning Billions in State Tax Breaks

Employees assemble Boeing Co. 777 airplanes on a moving production line at the company's facility in Everett, Washington, on June 25, 2013
Employees assemble Boeing Co. 777 airplanes on a moving production line at the company's facility in Everett, Washington, on June 25, 2013Photograph by Mike Kane/Bloomberg

Boeing plans to move about 2,000 engineering jobs from Washington state to other, lower-cost regions over the next three years. That news, announced Monday, came less than 11 months after state lawmakers approved the most lucrative package of tax incentives in U.S. history—$8.7 billion—so Boeing would keep its new 777X program in the area. Given Boeing’s record of moving jobs to states with lower wages, union members in the Puget Sound area are grumbling that Washington’s political leaders missed a critical chance to tie employment to tax breaks.

“Why are Washington taxpayers subsidizing Boeing to move thousands of jobs out of state?” Ray Goforth, executive director of the local Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents more than 2,200 Boeing workers, said in a news release. In April, Boeing said it would move 1,000 engineers from Washington, where it has about 5,200 defense jobs today, to Southern California. The engineers union—which adopted the slogan “No nerds, no birds” during a 40-day strike in early 2000—has been working with the International Association of Machinists to “educate legislators and let them know what’s lacking in the current bill,” says Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for the SPEEA. “The bill includes no accountability measures, no requirement that jobs be maintained or be created.”