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Boeing taking 787 second line to South Carolina

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Oct. 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm with 31 Comments »
October 28, 2009 6:37 pm

The irresistible attraction of lower wages, a big state incentive and a non-union environment lured The Boeing Co. to announce this afternoon that it will build a second 787 Dreamliner production line in South Carolina.

Attempts by Sen. Patty Murray to orchestrate an eleventh-hour meeting between the company and its Machinists Union to salvage a new labor agreement deal weren’t successful, and the company cast its lot with the site in North Charleston, S.C.

Boeing had sought no-strike concessions from the Machinists as part of the consideration for putting the second line in Everett where the first production line for the Dreamliner is located.

But despite negotiations between the union and the company last week, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state where establishing a union is more difficult. The company has been the subject of multiple strikes in the last two decades at its production facilities in the Puget Sound area.

“Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability to meet the market demand for the airplane,” said Boeing CEO Jim Albaugh, the new president of Boeing’s commercial airplane operation.

“This decision allows us to continue building the synergies we have established in South Carolina with Boeing Charleston and Global Aeronautica,” he said.

The union representing Boeing’s machinists was blunt in its criticism of the company.

“Boeing has betrayed our loyalty once again, walking away from our discussions just like they walked away from Seattle eight years ago to move to Chicago,” said Tom Wrolblewski, head of the International Association of Machinists Union District Local 751.

“We tried very hard to reach an extended agreement with Boeing. We listened closely to what executives said, and suggested ideas to meet their needs. We offered concrete, real-world solutions,” he said.

“But I can tell you now, no matter what Boeing says or implies, the truth is this: We did offer Boeing a 10-year contract, and even offered to go longer than that. And when we did, they seemed stunned, and stopped talking.

It was obvious to me that Boeing wasn’t really interested in working with us. They didn’t take our proposals seriously and they never offered any proposals of their own. Most of the time, they didn’t even take notes,” Wroblewski said.

“It’s now clear that Boeing was only using our talks as a smoke screen, and as a bargaining chip to extort a bigger tax handout from South Carolina,” he said.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company made it clear to union negotiators what it required in any extended agreement. The company, he said, wanted an agreement through at least 2022, and it wanted wage increases in line with historic wage improvements over the last two decades.

The company said it told the union it would consider an arrangement in which bargaining would happen as it does now with the union membership voting on the company’s best and final offer. If members rejected that offer, the matter would go to binding arbitration.

Healy said the union rejected that path to labor peace presumably because it feared an arbitrator might see that Boeing workers are now being paid 20 to 30 percent above the industry norm and grant them minimal increases.

The union also proposed that as a condition of a long-term no-strike arrangement that the company nationwide be restricted from campaigning against the union’s organizing efforts in other plants.

The union that represents Boeing’s engineers and technical workers in the Puget Sound area said the decision to open the new facility could multiple Boeing’s already plentiful problems with 787 production.

The Boeing Company’s decision to place the second 787 production line in South Carolina will hurt a program that is already stretched to its limit, said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.
“We are astounded that Boeing has chosen to compound the problems of the 787 program by further fragmenting the supply chain,” said Goforth. “There is no credible business case for this decision.”

Members of Washington’s congressional delegation expressed regret that the decision was for South Carolina.

Over the past several days Washington state lawmakers led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., had been in frequent contact with top Boeing officials, including the company’s CEO James McNerny and Albaugh.

As late as Wednesday morning Murray tried to bring the machinists union and Boeing back to the table. The union agreed. Boeing rejected the offer in a terse statement.

Boeing’s decision on the South Carolina plant comes as Dicks, Murray and Washington state’s other senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, are backing the company’s bid for a contract to build new Air Force refueling tankers. The contract could be worth $100 billion. The Air Force is expected to release its formal request for bids by the end of November.

This is the second time in recent years the Washington state congressional delegation has been disappointed by a major Boeing announcement. The lawmakers received no advanced notice when Boeing said several years ago it would move its corporate headquarters to Chicago.

Asked why she thought the state’s congressional delegation should continue to fight for Boeing in light of Wednesday’s announcement, Murray said “that’s a good question.”

But she quickly added, “I work for the 80,000 people who get up every morning in Washington state to build airplanes. I have people on the line every day that I am fighting for.”

Murray said McNerny had made clear in their conversations that what Boeing most wanted was “certainty” from its workforce. The senator said she thought the union’s latest offer was “impressive” and called Boeing decision “shortsighted.”

“We are where we are,” Murray said in an interview.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., whose congressional district includes the company’s massive Boeing plant in Everett, said “it is crystal clear that no level of tax breaks or training or anything else was going to stop this from going to South Carolina. It seems the management-labor divide was too wide to bridge. We did everything we could.”

In an interview, Larsen noted Boeing blamed an eight week strike for delays in 787 production, but the plane is 104 weeks behind schedule.

“What about the other 96 weeks?” Larsen said.

Cantwell said Albaugh told her the decision to put the second line in South Carolina won’t result in the loss of any Washington state jobs. She said Boeing’s relationship with the machinists union had to be a major factor.

“Obviously the labor-company relationship has been strained,” Cantwell said. “We live in a new, competitive aerospace world. We need a new model.”

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he hoped Wednesday announcement didn’t “represent a larger shift in the company’s approach to doing business.

“Throughout the years, Washington state and its workers have provided Boeing with the incentives, support and high quality workers that have allowed it to become one of the world’s leading aerospace companies. Given this history and all that Washington state has to offer, it is extremely disappointing to see them push aside our workers and develop the second plant outside the state.”

Boeing is opening its second production line for the 787 because of unprecedented demand for the jetliner. The company had hoped to assemble each jetliner in just three days in Everett, but glitches in supplier production of the component parts have thus far made the assembly move much more slowly.

Boeing bought Vought Aerospace’s Charleston factory that built 787 fuselage sections after that company botched its efforts to build the sections on time and in fully-completed form.

The company also bought a half interest in a Charleston plant jointly build by Vought and Alenia of Italy to join the fuselage parts built by Vought in Charleston and sections built in Italy by Alenia.

The company has already secured building permits to clear a forest near the existing plant to construct the assembly plant.

The South Carolina Legislature this week passed an incentive package to lure Boeing to build more in the state. That package hinges on Boeing creating 3,800 jobs there.

In addition to the non-union environment, Boeing will find wages substantially lower in South Carolina where assembly line workers make $14 an hour versus $26 in the Puget Sound area.

For Washington, the biggest potential impact may be long term. Boeing in the next decade is expected to create new planes to replace the 777 and the single-aisle 737. The 737 is built in Renton. The 777 is assembled in Everett.

The decision to opt for a site in the South could set a pattern for where those new planes would be built.

Albaugh told Boeing employees in a message that the decision will make the company more competitive. Boeing is still dedicated to its Puget Sound workers, he said.

“I know this decision may be of concern to some in Puget Sound, and I ask everyone to focus on the larger picture,” wrote Albaugh.

“Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability, diversify our manufacturing base and ultimately drive down the cost of the 787 — sustaining our competitiveness,” he said.

” We are adding jobs in South Carolina, not taking them away from Puget Sound — which is and will continue to be—our center for design, flight test and manufacturing. We have exciting programs to work on here, including the majority of the production for the 787, and we see increased production rates in the future across all programs in Puget Sound.

Until the South Carolina plant is up and running, Boeing will establish what it calls “surge capability” to build the next version of the 787, the 787-9, in Everett. The 787-9 is a somewhat larger version of the basic Dreamliner, the 787-8.

When the South Carolina plant is ready, 787-9 assembly and testing will happen there, and the 787-9 facility will be closed in Everett. The assembly line for the 787-8 will remain open in Everett.

Leave a comment Comments → 31
  1. dbreneman says:

    Washington is also a right to work state, is it not?

  2. Marcia Reed says:

    Congratulations, Washington State for your blind submission to socialism.

    Maybe Obama will take over Boeing! He will pay for it from his “stash.”

    Welcome, Washington State, to the ranks of Michigan and Illinois. You voted for it , you got it! Enjoy!

    And, no…Washington State is NOT a right to work state, dbreneman.

  3. Mike Brown says:

    Goforth proclaims “no credible business case for this decision.”

    $14/hour with no union versus $26/hour with a union plus a recent, business crippling strike…..seems like a no brainer to me. Good thing Goforth isn’t running a business.

  4. ldozy1234 says:

    Note to unions: when strikes are your repetitive “big gun” , sometimes the other team just steps out of the game.
    Happened with the garment workers union- now only 5 % of clothing is made still in the US
    Wonder how long and how many more of the yearly Boeing strikes till its just all gone?

  5. The Union and the state of WA are running Boeing out of the state a little at a time. Once they are completely gone they will both stand there with their mouth open wondering what happened. Good job guys.

  6. RBCharger says:

    The unions shouild strike again over this. That will show Boeing – and it has been a few months since the last vacation, I mean strike. Go ahead, unions, show them who is boss.

  7. Say goodbye to the 787 entirely! Note the S. Carolina Legislature’s bonus package is based on 3800 jobs; far more that this one production line will generate. So, as Washington’s Labor Union correctly pointed out the lack of efficiency of building a plane in two locations, it could not have escaped Boeing’s management that there are advantages to shutting down the “first” 787 line in Everett and building a new “first” line in S. Carolina. They can thereby reserve Everett facilities for 777 and 737 replacements…shutting down the Renton plant altogether?
    Unless Washington gets into the game and makes the State more business friendly, we’ll see more industry leaving as well.
    See what happens when Socialism and Capitalism collide? Capitalism takes it’s ball and goes home. Result? Game over!

  8. Marcia Reed says:

    What really frightens me about this is the fact that the unions and socialists put their agenda ahead of our country’s safety.

    Not that South Carolina workers will compromise safety. But. with the creeping socialism that is destroying this country, how long before ALL of our industries are shipped over-seas? How long before our unemployment rates turn us into a third world country? (Kind of like George, Obama’s brother, who lives in a hut?)

    Just keep on listening to ABC, NBC and CBS as your only source for news. Bury your head in the sand. Don’t ask questions. Just keep on drinking the kool-aid.

    God forbid that we utilize our nation’s natural resources to release the grip other countries have on our nation and selves.

    Hello, people!! God gave us resources to use. Yes, responsibly.

    And what is responsible about the “progressives” stealing freedom?

  9. IKnowMoreThanYou says:

    It stinks, but that’s what the union gets.

  10. scott0962 says:

    The union stood tough and didn’t give concessions; another victory for organized labor! Yay!

    So why aren’t Boeing’s machinists smiling?

  11. cclngthr says:

    WA state is a union state; requires employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The Taft-Hartley Act outlaws the union shop rule.

  12. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Guess what Washington ignorant electorate & overzealous unions – elections do have consequences!!! Enjoy the ride to a socialist Washington State utopia without meaningful employment in about another 10 years!!!

  13. GoingRogue says:

    I guess the best man won!

  14. I wonder how the machinists that voted for the last strike are feeling now?

    Most of my friends who work for Boeing (many of them in that union) did not agree with the strike and felt it was greedy and ill timed.

    I think (for the most part) unions have outlived their usefulness now that there are better labor laws.

    My ex husband (a teamster) was very proud of his outrageously high pay for unskilled labor, especially when he could work the system and get away with being lazy. He used to joke, “The only reason they don’t replace us with chimps is because they can’t get chimps to pay union dues”. (yeah, he was a real “peach” of a guy)

    He made 2 1/2 times what I did, even though my job required more education, experience and responsibility because I was not union.

    If I were Boeing, I’d have done the same thing.

    It’s a sad day for Washington State

  15. It’s easy to blame labor union members.

    Union members are great when they spend their hard earned, family wage paychecks in your neighborhoods but when the company takes their jobs somewhere else, it’s all the union’s fault.
    This isn’t new.
    I’m surprised that Boeing didn’t leave the country as so many other turncoat corporations have done.

    The Sonics left because we didn’t knuckle under to their demands.

    I’m sorry to see the jobs go but I have to blame Boeing, not the union. They wanted this to happen. They made the decision.

  16. Way to go Boeing workers. Your union has brainwashed you into thinking you hold all the cards. You have elected these morons and now their hunger for power has come back to bite YOU and the rest of the Pacific NW in the rear. Most of you have only a high school education, so I can’t blame you for your ignorance,but the ripple effect of this one is going to be huge. Learn from this experience . Go to work, work hard, and take what you get and be grateful you have a job.

  17. whatever1214 says:

    No more golden eggs from that goose.

  18. Polago wrote “…I have to blame Boeing, not the union”.

    Sorry I don’t buy that.

    Boeing is a for-profit company that has a duty to its shareholders to maximize profits. We live in a competitve, global economy and we in Washington labor needs to learn to compete. Our labor wage and benefit structure was not competitive. It was a business decision by Boeing and not vindictive. The unions could have made concessions and our political officials should be ashamed. The current union members will be o.k. as they likely will still have jobs (for now), I feel bad for all the 10% or so unemployed in our state that could have had jobs. Maybe they should move to South Carolina. Before you know it, Washington could turn into Michigan.

  19. buddiage says:

    Well done, Machinists. My husband and I watched the union “rallies” and kept up to date with the RIDICULOUS behavior of machinists during the strike, which was likened to mouthy brats that have had everything handed to them. My husband, a Boeing employee for 15 years, wondered why they were not taking a good deal. Boeing IS good to their employees. My husband has loved his time there. Boeing had to make a decision to keep the company strong. That is simply it. Guess it’s time for me to beef up my degree as my husband may not have a job in a few years. I am for fair pay and compensation. Making that kind of money without a college education seems pretty good to me.

  20. billyizme says:

    We all know for sure now that our senators and congressional delegation have no juice. Just think what Scoop & Maggie would have said to Boeing if this had been proposed while they were in office.

  21. pittsburgfanbrett says:

    They,brought it on themselves.

  22. buddiage says:

    Well done, Machinists. My husband and I watched the union “rallies” and kept up to date with the RIDICULOUS behavior of machinists during the strike, which was likened to mouthy brats that have had everything handed to them. My husband, a Boeing employee for 18 years, wondered why they were not taking a good deal. Boeing IS good to their employees. My husband has loved his time there. Boeing had to make a decision to keep the company strong. That is simply it. Guess it’s time for me to beef up my degree as my husband may not have a job in a few years. I am for fair pay and compensation. Making that kind of money without a college education seems pretty good to me.

  23. dbreneman says:

    Marcia Reed says: “And, no…Washington State is NOT a right to work state, dbreneman.

    Then why, when you accept employment in Washington, are you always reminded that Washington is a right to work state? I’ve quit at least one job with no notice, and been fired from at least two jobs with no notice. Always, the comment from one party or the other is, “Remember, Washington is a right to work state.” I also have at least one union-activist friend who decries the fact that Washington is a right to work state. So, where do you find evidence that we are not a right to work state, Ms. Rood?

  24. I am currently in the South and it Bites brass balls. Why because the rich VIPs aka former slave owners live in elegance while the real Americans slave away to pay other rich basterds there bills. You who are anti union and anti worker have another thing coming. As for the comment on strikes being vacation you are a moron, if you have ever watched union workers sink so low as to work at walmart or some other dumb f*%k southern company you would know it isn’t a vacation. It’s about families and taking care of people who matter. Not the VIPs. You bastards will take nothing with you when you leave this rock accept how you treat real folks. Just wait you southern pricks when blacks and white trash unionize the south and you’re stuck with your humble pie. YOU WILL NOT WIN. Oh and as for college education what did they teach you how to suck your Professors ego? I’ll take any American with a high school education up against you and win you elitest prick. You must think we all stay at home listening to our radios.

  25. dbreneman says:


  26. Elijah, Seems like you are the stupid one and only have yourself to blame and now your mad because you have a fading job and very little education. You should really think before you spew hateful remarks out of you liberal mouth. Get real man!

  27. Good going unions. You are worth every penny.

  28. Too little too late by the union. Serves them right. What a bunch of overpaid cry babies.

  29. Serves the IAM right (not the members), members = $$ for the union staff, they dont care about its members, the more members they have the more $$ they get to pay themselves. Myself Boeing engineer, if i had the $$ i’d be buying homes in SC to rent out to future employees, and yes i’d move to the warm climate of SC.

  30. dbreneman says:

    Marcia Reed writes: “And, no…Washington State is NOT a right to work state, dbreneman.”

    So, if Washington isn’t a right to work state, why do all employers remind their employees that they are accepting at-will employment, Marcia Reed?

  31. dbreneman says:

    It looks like several versions of my question to Ms. Reed actually got posted, typos and all, while all I got was error messages when I submitted them. They still don’t have the kinks ironed out of this blog software.

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