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Spin Control

Preaching to the choir

Sen. Patty Murray, who knows how to pick a friendly crowd, spent part of Tuesday talking about keeping defense jobs in the United States to the IAMAW.

That’s the International Association of Machiniest and Aircraft Workers, as in, the biggest union at Boeing.

Murray, who has led the fight to bring the Air Force’s contract for the next generation of aerial refueling tankers to Boeing’s 767 line, last week got a line added to legislation on reforming the military’s contracting process. It says the Pentagon has to tell Congress what the effect the cancelling of a contract will have on the nation’s industrial base.

Put another way, if the Pentagon wants to cancel a program, it will have to tell Congress what jobs will be cut, and in whose state and congressional district they’ll be cut.

On the tankers, Murray has been adamant that Congress consider what the job impacts will be of awarding the $35 billion contract to Boeing compared with a consortium that includes Northrop Grumman and the European maker of Airbus.

No surprise, she suggested machinist union members make  clear to its congressional delegation they have similar concerns.

For the text of her remarks, check inside the blog…


“Thank you all so much.  And thank you Rich for that kind introduction. I also want to thank Tom Buffenbarger for all of his great leadership and the passion he has shown in fighting for machinists at this critical time.

 “I also know there’s a crowd here from Boeing – so I want to say a special welcome to all of the workers from Boeing and Washington state.

 “We have the best workforce in the world, and I’m so proud of you. And proud to be fighting for you in the U.S Senate.  How’s everybody doing?  I hope you’re enjoying your visit to Washington, D.C.!

 “You know, like most of you, on January 20th of this year I sat eagerly listening to the President deliver his inaugural address – his first words to America and the world – as President… And sitting up behind that podium, seeing nothing but a sea of people for miles – I knew our country was ready for change.

 “And while I may have had a closer - albeit colder seat - than many of you that day, I think the new President’s words rang out pretty clear to us all.  He talked about the historic nature of the occasion, the need to reform our image abroad, and of course, the great challenges we face here at home. 

 “But in one very important section of his speech, the President also talked about the fact that America’s strength lies in the “the makers of things.” Those Americans whose ingenuity and skill have built our country and will continue to be the backbone of our economy. 

 “Well, I have to tell you, the first thing that crossed my mind when he said that were the skilled and dedicated machinists and aerospace workers in my state and across the nation. The men and women who have passed skills down for decades, from one generation to the next, and from one apprentice to the next.

 “Who for over 50 years have turned out plane after plane to keep air travel thriving, our military safe, and our economy moving.  Who will be key to paving our path to economic recovery.

 “And who I stood with 14 months ago, on a 767 line in Everett, Washington, and pledged to help in the face of the Air Force’s misguided decision to outsource a tanker contract worth billions of dollars and thousands of American jobs.

 “As I’m sure it is for many of you, the day of the Air Force’s tanker announcement is still pretty clear in my mind.  I can remember that my initial shock at hearing the news quickly turned to anger.

 “I couldn’t understand why the Air Force decided it would give away our jobs – and the control of our national defense – to a foreign company…

 “Why they would rather outsource jobs than create them in Everett and across the country. Why they would rather send a U.S. military contract to a company that has never built a refueling tanker – or any military plane for our country.

 “I can remember talking with Tom that day about how this decision would impact families, your union, and the next generation of American aerospace workers.  And I can remember telling him point blank that the minute I got off the plane back in D.C. I was going to work. And I did.

 “For the next seven months I was dedicated to showing the Air Force and the Pentagon the error they had made and the toll their decision would take on your jobs.  And while I can’t tell you exactly how many speeches I gave on the Senate floor against their decision, I can tell you this:

 “Any time another Senator spoke out for Airbus, I took the floor. Any time a TV or newspaper ran a story that ignored the devastating effects this decision would have on workers, I took the floor.  Any time I saw one of those full page ads in the paper that had faulty statistics and skewed the facts of the competition, I took the floor.

 “It got to the point that I would come in to work and not even have tell my staff that I wanted to go speak, they would say Senator we know….we saw the paper. It was a long, hard fight.

 “It took a lot of committee hearings, a lot of phone calls, and a lot of partnerships with some of the people you will also hear from during this conference.  But over the course of those seven months one thing became clear – the facts didn’t add up.  Every briefing and every hearing only raised more questions than answers.

 “And the evidence showed that the rules were changed on Boeing time and again in order to keep a foreign competitor at the table. And then finally, last September, our efforts paid off.  The Pentagon - confronted with the hard facts of an unfair competition - decided they would re-compete this critical contract.  It was a big victory.

 “But the truth is… it was one victory in what I believe is a much larger battle.  A battle for the future of our workers, our industrial base, and your union.  Because this isn’t just about one contract, one company, one state, or one industry. This is about our nation’s economic stability, our military capability, and ensuring that our workers are a consideration in the decisions we are making on major defense contracts.  

 “You know, just last week we passed a long-overdue bill in the Senate that reforms many of the Pentagon’s procurement practices.  And in that bill, I fought successfully to add an amendment that will require the Pentagon to explain to Congress just how their decisions affect good paying jobs and the long-term strength of our industrial base.

 “I worked to include this provision because I believe it’s time to start a serious conversation about the future of the men and women who produce our tanks, planes, and boats.  The skilled workers our military depends on – a workforce that is disappearing before our eyes.

 “Whether it is scientists designing the next generation of military satellites, engineers improving our radar systems, or the machinists assembling our warplanes - these industries and their workers are one of our greatest strategic assets. 

 “But what if they weren’t available?  What if we made budgetary and policy decisions without taking the future needs of our domestic workforce in mind? It’s not impossible.  It’s not even unthinkable.   It’s happening.  And we need to have a real dialogue about the ramifications of these decisions.

 “Because as all of you know, once our plants shut down, once our skilled workers move to other fields, and once the infrastructure is gone – it can’t be rebuilt overnight. Our country faces two difficult, but not unrelated, challenges – winning an international war on terror and rebuilding a faltering economy – And that is why this is a discussion that can’t wait.

 “Unless we begin to address this issue now, we are going to continue to lose some of our best paying American jobs and the backbone of our military might.

 “And so today – and tomorrow – while you’re out meeting with your members of Congress – I want you to remind them that it took us a long time to build our industrial base. That your union has machinists who have passed experience and know-how down the ranks for half a century. And that you have a reputation for delivering for our military.  But that once our plants shut down, we can’t get those skills back overnight.

 “And that as we face two wars and a recession, it is critical that they are making decisions that keep our aerospace industry strong. Decisions that take our domestic base into consideration. And that begins by making clear to them that the next tanker completion must be fair and transparent.

 “Because you and I know, on an even playing field, nobody is going to beat you guys!

 “So when you’re talking to those Senators and House members and their staffs, make sure you tell them that we can’t afford another flawed process.  Make sure they how that this contract means jobs for their neighbors and their constituents! That this contract represents the future of the American aerospace industry! And that the best machinists and aerospace workers in the world are right here in America!

 “Remind them that American workers built this country and our military - and that you’re here in Washington D.C to say that you are ready to be put to work again! And make sure that they know this won’t be the last time they hear from you. That you are going to call and remind them about what’s at stake.

 “I can guarantee that once your lawmakers know that you aren’t going anywhere – they will begin to see everything in a whole new light.  Thank you.”


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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