Machinists Want Defense Department to Buy American

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Jaclyn Diaz

The International Association of Machinists union is hoping the next few months will bring a legislative victory that could stem the loss of defense manufacturing jobs.

The Machinists want an end to policies that allow the Department of Defense to contract with foreign companies to produce military equipment. That could bring thousands of jobs back to the U.S., Hasan Solomon, the union’s legislative director, told Bloomberg Law.

The union is looking for legislators in the House and Senate to introduce such legislation, Solomon said. “At least a dozen pieces of legislation” pertaining to Buy American exist, but none specifically target defense, he said. “This week we are trying to identify a champion that could support that.”

The union is holding its annual legislative conference in Washington and taking advantage of the proximity to Congress to lobby on defense manufacturing. Both leaders and rank-and-file members have headed to the Capitol to make their case.

The ideal legislation would outline Buy American content requirements for all federal government spending but especially in the area of defense manufacturing. The union estimates that Buy American defense procurement requirements are at 50 percent. It wants all defense goods purchased from U.S. manufacturers.

The Department of Defense told Bloomberg Law it doesn’t comment on proposed legislation.

The Machinists union represents more than 500,000 workers in aerospace, transportation, and manufacturing.

Lockheed Martin is the largest U.S. federal contractor, according to Bloomberg Government’s 2017 rankings. It currently has contracts with approximately 75 different bargaining units, based on Bloomberg Law’s analysis of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services data. These contracts cover more than 21,000 employees nationwide.

The Machinists alone represent approximately 15,000 Lockheed employees, the data show.

Support in Congress?

The goal of the lobbying effort is to find support among members of Congress so that a bill could hit the floor soon, Solomon said.

The union hopes to connect with several members of Congress who have supported Buy American efforts in the past. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.) are on the union’s target list to introduce legislation, Solomon said.

All three have been vocal in their support of a Buy American policy and have worked in various ways to introduce similar measures.

Boyle’s office said the congressman has worked with the union in the past and is open to bringing this legislation forward. His office and Murphy’s said the union hadn’t reached out to them yet. Baldwin’s office didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

The union is prepared for pushback from employers and politicians who have long opposed this idea, Solomon said.

“You say you can’t get it done because you don’t want to get it done,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on record opposing Buy American initiatives. The organization says such policies would result in heavier compliance burdens for companies, reduced competition, increased production costs, and higher prices for the government and taxpayers.

A free-and-open competition should be allowed in all aspects of federal agency contracting including for the DOD, a Chamber spokeswoman told Bloomberg Law May 8.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law