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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Right-to-work special session ‘not going to happen’

In the wake of the Boeing machinists’ rejection of a contract extension the company said would assure the 777X would be built in Washington, a Spokane legislator said the state needs to take a bold step to become more attractive to manufacturing.

Make Washington a “right-to-work” state, which would make union membership and its dues optional.

That would be part of making the state “a welcoming overall environment” with a lower possibility of strikes, Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner said. He wants Gov. Jay Inslee to call a special session to consider and pass such legislation.

“That’s not going to happen,” a spokesman for Inslee said. Boeing never mentioned right-to-work legislation as something it was seeking to guarantee the plane would be built in Washington, David Postman said. . .

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The governor is, however, reconvening a legislative task force on the 777X next Tuesday, in advance of the committee meetings that will have most members in Olympia. That would be the day after he returns from a trade mission to China, which he delayed joining because of last week’s special session on tax incentives and training programs for aerospace companies. Inslee left for China this morning, to join the rest of the trade mission which left Saturday.

A special session on transportation could be called for later next week if agreement is reached on a package that contains a number of new highway projects, reforms of policies and practices of the state Transportation Department and money to fix existing roads and bridges.

Members of a Senate committee held hearings around the state this fall on transportation issues, and currently are working on a $12.3 billion proposal that could raise the gasoline tax by 11.5 cents between 2015 and 2017.

But if the governor does call the Legislature into a special session, there are no limits on what topics it can discuss or what bills can be introduced. So Baumgartner would have the opportunity to propose such a bill. Whether he could get it passed is a different question.

He and other Republicans could point out that other governors trying to convince Boeing to locate a factory there tout their status as right-to-work states. The company located its second assembly line for the 787 in South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state.

“It certainly isn’t the only thing that needs to be done,” Baumgartner said. The state should also extend the tax incentives it approved in the last week for Boeing to build the 777X to all businesses, he said.

Right-to-work legislation has been suggested frequently in recent years but never passed, Postman said. Bringing it up in a special session would be a distraction, he contended.

Inslee would hope legislators would “resist the temptation to add their favorite political things to the Boeing issue,” he added.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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