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Let’s Replicate Chicago’s Antiwar Organizing Victory Against Boeing

Asha Ransby-Sporn & Debbie SouthornTruthout, July 17, 2022 The news released this spring that Boeing, a corporate weapons manufacturer, is moving its headquarters out of Chicago, Illinois, is a win for the anti-militarist movement and came just weeks after an even more meaningful victory for youth organizers who blocked the company from getting a $2 million tax break before they left.

It’s a victory that organizers like us hope will inspire communities in other cities to target weapons manufacturers who are sucking up public resources via tax breaks and government contracts. By forcing local government to ask questions rather than write blank checks and by telling death-dealing corporations that they are no longer welcome, our movement can undermine the business model of pillaging public budgets in order to reap profit from militarized weapons and violence.

This victory came months after a group of young people blocked traffic to and from Boeing’s corporate headquarters last May, hanging a large banner that read “Boeing Arms Genocide” over the Chicago River that was visible from the corporate offices and commercial walkways in the city’s downtown area. Following escalated assaults on the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which sparked protests around the world, these youth called attention to Boeing’s $735 million weapons sale to Israel, which was approved by the United States State Department in the same weeks as the assault.

In the following months, organizers with the newly formed Boeing Arms Genocide campaign presented to Chicago’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and to Alderwoman Maria Hadden with a detailed analysis of how Boeing’s Chicago headquarters has reaped more than $60 million in tax breaks while failing to deliver on promises of job creation. (Alderwoman Hadden represents Chicago’s 49th ward, which is home to large immigrant and refugee communities.) This set in motion an OIG inquiry into the contract that had made this arrangement possible. At the end of 2021, for the first year in 20 years, Boeing declined to file for a tax reimbursement worth roughly $2 million. Then in May 2022, its leaders announced their headquarters would be leaving the city.

From the onset of the campaign, organizers had set out to ensure there would be no extension of the contract slated to end in 2021, or any new contract that would allow Boeing to continue benefiting from state and local tax breaks, after they’d received these public checks for two decades. The canvassing, petition drives, teach-ins and meetings with city officials resulted in first-time scrutiny on the company’s compliance with the minimal requirements of the contract. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request confirmed, in the words of the Department of Planning and Development’s Financial Incentives Division Deputy Commissioner Tim Jeffries, “The term of the agreement is over and Boeing has stated they are not seeking reimbursement for the 2021 tax year. The contract is functionally dead.”

Up against a Fortune 500 company, a few hand-painted banners, a little public pressure, and the compelling research of a group of 20-somethings presented to a few city officials might not seem like much. A closer look, however, at the business model of a company like Boeing shows us how much they have to lose from a challenge to the idea that public resources can or should go toward the profits of a weapons manufacturer……………………………….

July 16, 2022 - Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA

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