SEATTLE — The Export-Import Bank is a vital tool for creating American jobs and it must be renewed, say leaders of Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
“This is important to us, as Machinists, because the Ex-Im Bank helps Boeing customers line up financing so they can buy the planes we build,” said District President Tom Wroblewski. “As President Obama noted during his speech in Everett, the sale of 230 Boeing 737s to Lion Air was made possible by the Ex-Im Bank. And that’s just one example.”
The Export-Import Bank is an independent federal agency that provides loan guarantees and other financing to help American companies, like Boeing sell their products overseas. By providing loan guarantees – essentially agreeing to be a co-signer on loans – the Ex-Im Bank helps buyers of aircraft and other American-made products arrange financing for purchases.
The bank is facing two major deadlines. Congressional authorization of the Ex-Im Bank will expire on May 31 of this year, and the bank likely will hit its current $100 billion credit limit sometime in April. Once it hits the credit limit, it can’t make any more loans, and it will have to close shop on May 31, unless it’s reauthorized.
A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators – led by Maria Cantwell of Washington – have proposed a measure to reauthorize the bank for the next four years, and also to raise the credit limit to $140 billion.
The Machinists Union supports Cantwell’s bill, said District 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown.
“Roughly 70 percent of the planes our members build for Boeing are sold to airlines and leasing companies outside the United States,” he said.
To meet increased export demand for Boeing planes, the company has hired more than 8,100 workers in Washington state over the past year, Brown added.
“These are good-paying union jobs with benefits, the kind of jobs that support entire communities,” he said. “Those jobs exist in no small part because the Ex-Im Bank helps us compete with our massively subsidized foreign competitors.”
The Canadian government, for example, provides three times the level of export loan guarantees as the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, Brown said. Chinese exporters benefit from 11 times as much government support.
However, Republicans – operating largely at the behest of Delta Air Lines – are trying to shut down the Ex-Im Bank. While some conservatives publicly site philosophical reasons, saying corporations shouldn’t rely on government aid, behind the scenes, Delta is pushing them hard in an attempt to block the sale of 42 Boeing 787s to Air India in a deal made possible through Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees.
“The Air India deal represents several years of work for thousands of American aerospace workers,” said Brown. “That includes our union members here in Puget Sound, of course, but it also affects workers at aerospace suppliers nationwide and at other Boeing sites, including South Carolina.”
District 751 is encouraging its members to contact their members of Congress to support Cantwell’s reauthorization bill, Brown said.
“Failure to reauthorize Ex-Im would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of other nations’ aggressive trade finance programs,” he said. “It will put billions of dollars in U.S. exports and thousands of American jobs at risk.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 working men and women across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members ratified a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
For more information about District 751, read the Machinists News.