Monday, February 4, 2013

Build Them In Washington

Long before the ‘buy local’ movement got going, environmentalists and labor unions worked together to get legislation passed that would give a leg up to Washington shipbuilders to build new ferries locally. That was the Build Them In Washington campaign.

Twenty years later, legislators want to open the bidding (and the building) to shipbuilders in other states if they can save on cost. ( See: “Lawmakers want new audit to focus on costs of 64-car ferries” and “Lawmakers want audit of spending on newest ferries” )

Dave Groves, editor of the Washington State Labor Council’s website, took a trip down memory lane in his weekend guest editorial, “Buy Washington! Yes, including ferries” reminding us that, “The Build In Washington law has been renewed several times in a bipartisan fashion, most recently in 2008 when lawmakers authorized the emergency replacement of the WSF's steel electric-class boats due to hull erosion. That work went to Seattle-based Vigor Industrial, formerly Todd Pacific Shipyards, which will soon celebrate a century in business. But now, some legislators are wondering if we should build cheaper ferries elsewhere. The Build In Washington law passed because lawmakers recognized the importance of spending our tax dollars here, to create jobs here, and to sustain an industry here. Those jobs have a multiplier effect on our state's economy, creating more jobs and sustaining more businesses.”

From the environmental point of view, we supported giving in-state preferences because Washington shipbuilders had to comply with stricter environmental protection laws than shipbuilders in other states, like Louisiana, which gave out-of-state shipbuilders competitive advantage. Giving a preference in the bidding leveled the playing field. Giving a preference didn’t only benefit the economy, it benefitted the environment as well.

The Build Them in Washington campaign and the Jobs in the Woods campaign, legislation that created living wage restoration jobs for laid-off timber workers, were sterling examples of environmentalists and labor working together. These campaigns are also poster child examples of how what is good for our environment is also good for our economy.

Try to remember these successful campaigns, especially when environmentalists and labor supposedly end up on opposite sides on issues such as building coal export facilities. There has to be leadership on both sides that can find common ground to put truth to the mantra, “good for the environment, good for the economy.”

--Mike Sato

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