So, Bush’s Defense Department gives a massive tanker contract to Northrop Grumman and the European firm EADS. In doing so, it shunned Boeing, which bid on the contract.

This action is perverse on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.

In handing out the contract—worth between $40 billion to $100 billion—for the construction of Air Force refueling tankers, the Bush administration claimed that 25,000 jobs would be created in Alabama and other southern states.

That assertion obscures several key points: Far more jobs—44,000—would have been created had Boeing received the contract, with more than 300 suppliers in 40 states benefiting, according to Boeing. At Boeing plants, those jobs would be highly paid and the workers would be members of unions. The 25,000 jobs Bush claims the contract creates involve far lower-paying jobs assembling parts made overseas. And they’re not union jobs.

Since he’s taken office, many of Bush’s attacks on unions have been overt. But far more insidious are moves like this one, that surreptiously undermine the fundamental premise of the union movement: People who work should earn wages that support themselves and their families.

And look who was instrumental to pushing through this un-American deal: the senator from Arizona, John McCain. Time magazine reports McCain wrote letters and pushed the Pentagon to change the bidding process so that EADS’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 conflicts with U.S. trade policy.

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 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. OpenSecrets 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. 

In Seattle, where much of the work for Boeing takes place, workers are outraged. Says Garth Fluart, member of Machinists (IAM) Local 751:

I do not understand why American work in a time of a recession is getting sent overseas. It doesn’t make any sense at all to me, my family, my friends that are overseas fighting a war right now in Iraq. And for them to say this is going to be a good thing for jobs in Alabama. Are you kidding me?

Fluart and other members of Local 751 start each union meeting in South Seattle by pledging allegiance to the flag.

Along with the Machinists, members of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) also work at Boeing. Says IFPTE President Gregory Junemann:

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.

Boeing would have performed much of the tanker work in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., and used Pratt & Whitney engines built in Connecticut.

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. I feel truly betrayed by the U.S. government.

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

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

UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s Aerospace Department, points out 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. 

So once again, the Bush administration has taken a major action based not on facts, but on extremist ideology.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council is calling on Congress to 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 urges all the presidential candidates to condemn the contract and call for it to be overturned. We also have an action here, where you can send a message to your representatives in Congress, urging them to overturn this decision.