Washington state unionists protest Boeing move of 787 Dreamliner production to S.C.
Democratic Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee says he is looking into whether billions of dollars in subsidies given to Boeing have essentially gone down the drain. | Ted S. Warren/AP

EVERETT, Wash.—Upset, disappointed union leaders in Washington state lambasted Boeing for its decision to move all remaining 787 Dreamliner production at its Everett, Wash., plant to its non-union factory in anti-union red state South Carolina.

And the company’s pullout of that plant from the Puget Sound area by mid-2021 will leave thousands of union members, represented by Machinists Grand Lodge 751 and Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, Local 2001 of the Professional and Technical Engineers, jobless.

Rather than trying to reverse the firm’s edict, though, the two unions are laying plans to attract future aerospace work to the plant to replace the 787 production. Other unionized Boeing workers at the plant will still produce smaller airplanes.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., is wondering if $8.7 billion in state tax breaks for Boeing to keep the 787 in Everett, went down the drain. He plans “a review of the subsidies,” he said.

There’s an anti-worker history behind Boeing’s announcement on Oct. 4. The original reason Boeing started moving some of the 787 production to North Charleston seven years ago was to retaliate against Grand Lodge 751’s spirited defense of its members in Everett, sticking up for their rights under the union contract with the aerospace giant.

That retaliation conclusion came not just from IAM but from then National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Lafe Solomon, who brought labor law-breaking charges against Boeing for the 787 production transfer, setting off a brouhaha on Capitol Hill.

IAM Grand Lodge President Jon Holden hasn’t forgotten.

“Favoring a non-union site is only about control of the workforce, nothing more,” he said after the news broke. “Boeing can’t stand the idea that those who design and build the aircraft, who are the heart and soul of the manufacturing process, have rights.”

Holden told The Stand, the Washington State Labor Council’s news website, that  Boeing’s move is “just another in a string of bad decisions…that fails to capitalize on the strengths of our workforce…Our members and our communities have demonstrated why our state has the most efficient, productive aerospace manufacturing facilities in the world.”

“Boeing doesn’t respect that our members have the ability to stand up, voice concerns, and attempt course correction of poor management decisions to protect the integrity of the airplanes and the industry. This ability should be looked at as a positive. However, Boeing only sees it as conceding control rather than ensuring a quality product.”

“Boeing leaders discount the efficiency, quality, and productivity of our Puget Sound workforce. This company fails to take into account all the benefits Washington state offers in support of training programs, higher education, research and innovation, infrastructure, and continued tax incentives.”

Boeing couldn’t even tell SPEEA how many of its engineers, technical workers, and pilots in Everett would lose their jobs, union President Ryan Rule and Executive Director Ray Goforth said in a statement. They called Boeing’s decision “disappointing and frustrating.”

“We believe Boeing is making a mistake,” Goforth added. “SPEEA’s immediate focus is supporting the members who will be laid-off.”

Washington state unionists also conceded the move is a done deal, and that they would turn to attracting other aerospace work to the Pacific Northwest.

“Long-term we will partner with community stakeholders to attract new aerospace jobs to the state by marketing the aerospace talent pool Boeing is walking away from,” Goforth said.

“Our next concern will be to make sure Washington retains its aerospace production capacity,” state Labor Council President Larry Brown, Lodge 751’s former political director, said in a statement in The Stand.

“When demand for Boeing airplanes returns, and it will, orders for 787s are likely to exceed South Carolina’s capacity to build them. We must be ready for that work.”

“We must also be ready to win Boeing’s future airplane programs, like the New Midsize Airplane that was put on hold at the start of this year. And we must work to bring other aerospace design and manufacturing jobs to Washington.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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