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Boeing Requests Cuts to Unemployment System

Tom Banse
06/04/2003

The Washington legislature is sweating under the pressure to make some big decisions in a short amount of time. What they decide about unemployment taxes and benefits could affect whether the Boeing Company continues to build airplanes in Washington. It could improve the competitiveness of other companies... But could mean NO checks for you if you get laid off from a seasonal job. Olympia correspondent Tom Banse has more on the story.

THE BOEING COMPANY AND DOZENS OF ITS WORKERS LAID IT ON THE LINE FOR THE WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE. LAWMAKERS NEED TO CUT THE COST OF THE UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM TO MAKE THE STATE MORE ATTRACTIVE TO BUSINESS… OR ELSE AIRCRAFT MECHANICS LIKE RICK MCKINNEY COULD BE OUT OF A JOB. McKinney: "I was hoping the Boeing Company would provide me with the last job before I retired. If something is not done immediately in this state, the Boeing Company will leave and all of us will be on unemployment." THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE JACKETS OF THE BOEING MACHINISTS UNION DOT THE CAPITOL CAMPUS ALL DAY. OTHER WORRIED FIGURES MINGLE AMONG THEM, LIKE TANNED EASTERN WASHINGTON FARMWORKERS UNDER STRAW COWBOY HATS. UNITED FARMWORKERS UNION LEADER GUADALUPE GAMBOA FIGURES THEY'LL BE THE FIRST TO LOSE IF THE LEGISLATURE TRIMS JOBLESS BENEFITS. Gamboa: "When you take away people's safety net, when you take away their income, there's a societal cost. You know, people either go hungry. We could have an increase in people living by the riverbanks again. Families will be forced to put their children back to work again." LAWMAKERS ARE ALSO HEARING FROM PART-TIME COLLEGE INSTRUCTORS AND FROM THE CONSTRUCTION TRADES WHO LIKEWISE FEAR THE LEGISLATURE IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING RASH. THE STATE'S MAJOR BUSINESS LOBBYISTS HAVE PRESENTED A PLAN THAT LIMITS ELIGIBILITY FOR JOBLESS CHECKS, FREEZES THE MAXIMUM WEEKLY BENEFIT, AND REVAMPS TAX RATES. ASSOCIATION OF WASHINGTON BUSINESS NEGOTIATOR CLIFF FINCH TESTIFIES THE IDEA IS TO TARGET BENEFITS TO THE WORKERS WHO MOST DESERVE THEM. Finch: "Unemployment insurance benefits were never intended for workers who work only one quarter per year. It was never intended to assist workers who only work during the holiday or one particular harvest season. U-I was never intended to be a supplemental income or a welfare system. U-I was intended to help hard working employees who are between jobs and actively seeking work." COMPANIES HAVE LONG COMPLAINED ABOUT THE COST OF THE UNEMPLOYMENT AND WORKERS COMPENSATION SYSTEMS IN WASHINGTON. NOW THE PROSPECT THAT THOUSANDS OF BOEING AIRPLANE ASSEMBLY JOBS COULD FLY OUT OF STATE HAS LIT A FIRE UNDER THE STATE LEGISLATURE. THE BOEING COMPANY'S CHIEF LOBBYIST IN OLYMPIA, AL RALSTON, TELLS LAWMAKERS THEY WOULD BE WISE TO DO SOMETHING QUICKLY TO CUT BUSINESS EXPENSES. BOEING HAS SET A JUNE 20TH DEADLINE FOR STATES TO PRESENT THEIR BEST BIDS FOR A NEW JETLINER ASSEMBLY LINE. Ralston: "If you take a look at the other Boeing states, the unemployment tax costs per employee are substantially higher in the state of Washington compared with all of the other states. I think this will be an issue as the RFP's are delivered back to the Boeing Company. Cost is an important factor for us to be able to compete." WASHINGTON LAWMAKERS WOULD PREFER THE BUSINESS LOBBY AND ORGANIZED LABOR WORKED OUT A COMPROMISE AMONG THEMSELVES FIRST. TALKS TOWARD THAT GOAL HAVE BEEN GOING ON FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS, SO FAR INCONCLUSIVELY. THUS THE SWEATY PALMS AMONG STATE LAWMAKERS WHO SHORTLY MAY BE PUT ON THE SPOT. I'M TOM BANSE IN OLYMPIA.

09.23.18

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