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McCain Stiffs U.S. Workers, Helps Europeans Win Air Tanker Deal


McCain Stiffs U.S. Workers, Helps Europeans Win Air Tanker Deal

by James Parks, Mar 12, 2008

AFL-CIO Blog link

At a time when American jobs are disappearing and our manufacturing base is being decimated, working people are outraged that Republican presidential nominee John McCain played a key role in the Bush Defense Department’s decision to award one of our largest military contracts to a foreign company.

Had Boeing been awarded the air tanker deal, it would have supported at least 44,000 new and existing jobs in the United States, many of them good union jobs, and more than 300 suppliers in 40 states. But now only a few thousand lower-paying nonunion jobs will be created. (Click here to send a message to your representatives in Congress, urging them to overturn this decision .)

The DOD announced Feb. 29 the awarding of a $40 billion to $100 billion contract for the construction of Air Force refueling tankers to Northrop Grumann and the European firm EADS, which makes the Airbus. Defense expenditures are supposed to comply with federal Buy American Law provisions, which require purchasing certain products from American companies when possible. But this administration has granted more waivers of the Buy American provisions than any administration in history.

Time magazine reports that McCain has been a “key figure” in the Pentagon’s attempt to complete the tanker deal. According to the news magazine, McCain wrote letters and pushed the Pentagon to change the bidding process so that Airbus’s government subsidies could not be considered when deciding to whom to award the contract. This placed Boeing, which receives no subsidies, at a clear disadvantage and conflicted with U.S. trade policy. In fact, the U.S. currently has a complaint before the World Trade Organization (WTO) charging unfair trade practices resulting from Airbus’s illegal subsidies.

Time also reveals that two current advisers to McCain worked on the deal for Northrop and EADS as lobbyists. They gave up their lobbying jobs when they came to work for McCain’s campaign, but a third lobbyist, former Rep. Tom Loeffler (R-Texas), lobbied for EADS while serving as McCain’s national finance chairman. Click here to read the Time article.

To top it off, reports that McCain received $28,000 in contributions from EADS’s American employees, including CEO Ralph Crosby, Senior VP Sam Adcock and lobbyists representing EADS.

This is the third time in three weeks it has been reported that McCain was involved in highly questionable conduct that belies his claim to be a crusader for integrity. Newsweek and The Washington Post reported that McCain pressured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to vote on an application to buy a TV station submitted by Paxson Communications at the same time McCain was flying on Paxson’s corporate jet and accepting tens of thousands in campaign contributions.

The media also pointed out that McCain weighed in on behalf of Glencairn Ltd, a client of one of his lobbyist friends, to urge the FCC to abandon efforts to close a loophole that was “vitally important” to Glencairn business. Click here to read the Newsweek article and here for the Washington Post story.

Machinists (IAM) District 751 President Tom Wroblewski says U.S. taxpayers deserve a better deal.

Now with this decision, America has to rely on a foreign country to defend our nation. This is wrong! And we will not stand silent on this issue. This is an unjustified gamble, which puts our armed services at risk. U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be lining the pockets of Europeans.

Tom Buffenbarger, president of IAM, says working people will fight “tooth and nail and get this decision overturned.”

How we could turn over the crown jewel of support for our nation’s Air Force to foreign manufacturers is beyond me. We’re going to see that America gets what it deserves in the form of economic justice and fairness for American workers.

Gregory Junemann, president of International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), says:

By turning our backs on American workers, we have certainly missed a prime opportunity to reinvest American taxpayer dollars in our own workforce. Our tax dollars are still at work, but in this circumstance, they are working to the benefit of foreign workers, not U.S. workers.

IAM and IFPTE combined represent 55,000 workers at Boeing.

The stakes in the bidding were high. Boeing would have performed much of the tanker work in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., and used Pratt & Whitney engines built in Connecticut. The company said the contract would have supported at least 44,000 new and existing family-supporting union jobs at Boeing.

The Northrop-Airbus proposal calls for converting new Airbus passenger jets, currently built in Toulouse, France, into tankers. Northrop said the planes will be constructed of European components that will be shipped to this country and assembled in a yet-to-be-built plant in Alabama, a so-called right-to-work state, resulting in far fewer U.S. jobs. In states with such laws, the average pay for workers is 15 percent less than in states where workers have rights to bargain contracts (including wages and benefits).

Richard Spevak, a member of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace/IFPTE Local 2001 (SPEEA) in Wichita, speaks for many working people when he says:

I’m so mad I could spit. As an American taxpayer and worker, this is the most blatantly stupid thing our government has done.. Most of the jobs in this will be in a foreign country when it could be done here by Americans. I feel truly betrayed by the U.S. government. Also consider this: How safe are we when major military equipment has to come from outside the country clear across the ocean?

SPEEA members played a big role in designing the Boeing tanker.

Workers in Washington state and Wichita weren’t the only losers. Dominic DiFrancesco, former national commander of the American Legion, wrote in the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot:

For Pennsylvania, the stakes couldn’t be greater. The federal Base Realignment and Closing Commission’s decision to close a number of military facilities here will eliminate nearly 2,000 military and civilian jobs. On the other hand, we have a number of respected aeronautics companies in the state that would become subcontractors to Boeing if it wins the bid. We’re talking about preserving and growing hundreds of jobs.

The Downwithtyranny blog says the extent to which workers reject the policies of McCain were highlighted in yesterday’s strong worker support for the Democratic winner in the special congressional election in Indiana on Tuesday over a McCain-backed Republican. André Carson’s victory was a referendum on “McBush.”

Shipping American jobs overseas may be someone’s idea of “free trade,” but it doesn’t go over outside of the board rooms. When McCain bragged about having been instrumental in denying an immense new contract to Boeing for refueling planes and helping the European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. (EADS) get it instead, there was outrage from union halls to the halls of Congress over the impact on U.S. jobs, prestige and national security.

On Monday, Boeing said it will formally challenge the decision. The company said it will ask the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to review the contract award.

SPEEA President Cynthia Cole says:

I am very disappointed for our members and all employees at Boeing. I’m surprised the Air Force chose an unproven technology and an inferior product for this important program that supports the men and women in our armed forces.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says his union supports Boeing’s decision to challenge the award:

Instead of buying a tested refueling tanker, made in America by American workers, the Air Force is proposing to spend billions of our tax dollars on an untested plane, to be built by a government-subsidized European consortium.

UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Aerospace Department, notes that neither EADS nor Northrop Grumman has ever built a tanker with a refueling boom. Boeing, on the other hand, has been building refueling tankers for the U.S. military for more than 75 years.

New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech called the decision “unexplainable and reckless.”

I am shocked by the Air Force’s intent to move the manufacturing of military aircraft to foreign soil, giving other countries the ability to slow down our military capacity, especially during a time of war and the necessity of heightened security.

In a statement issued during its March 4–6 meeting in San Diego, the AFL-CIO Executive Council called for Congress to “do its job and exercise closer oversight of the relations between the Defense Department and foreign contractors.” In particular, the council said Congress should “defund” the contract, as well as conduct a full investigation into the circumstances under which the contract was awarded to a foreign contractor.

The Executive Council also urged all the presidential candidates to condemn the contract and call for it to be overturned. Click here to read the council statement, “Offshoring America’s Economic And National Security.”

1 comment so far

UAW supports Boeing protest on USAF tanker contract
Author: RP news wires

The award of a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract to a European-based company is “a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers,” United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger said on March 12.

“UAW members fully support Boeing’s decision to challenge this award before the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress,” Gettelfinger said. “Instead of buying a tested refueling tanker, made in America by American workers, the Air Force is proposing to spend billions of our tax dollars on an untested plane, to be built by a government-subsidized European consortium.”

The Air Force announced on February 29 that it would award a contract for a new refueling tanker to a consortium led by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Northrup Grumman. The EADS/Northrup Grumman plane will be manufactured in Europe and then “finished” in a facility, not yet constructed, to be located in Huntsville, Ala.

“Why should our tax dollars be used to send jobs to Europe, and then subsidize the construction of a new plant when we’ve got existing plants and existing workers who can do this job?” said UAW vice president Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Aerospace Department. “This decision puts 40,000 good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs at risk – but it does not deliver a better product to our military.”

EADS and Northrup Grumman won the contract, Settles noted, even though neither company has ever built a tanker with a refueling boom. Boeing, by contrast, has been building refueling tankers for the U.S. military for more than 75 years.

“Boeing’s proposal is for a plane which is smaller and can land at more military bases,” said Jim Wells, director of UAW Region 5, home to thousands of UAW-represented aerospace workers and their families. “Boeing’s plane is more fuel efficient, has lower emissions, and already fits with 99 percent of the Air Force’s existing equipment. We look forward to the GAO investigation because the U.S. military and U.S. taxpayers are not served well by this decision.”

The UAW, one of the nation’s largest and most diverse labor unions, represents more than one million active and retired workers, including about 4,000 workers at Boeing and its supplier firms in California and Oklahoma.

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