MIAMI – The largest union of Boeing prepares for a possible showdown on a consolidation regarding the production of the 787 in a unionized plant. This adds further strains on Boeing, which recently said it had found a defect inside a batch of its 787.
Statement from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Jon Holden, president of IAM District 751 said, “We strongly feel that we’ve already earned that work,” IAM represents about 32,000 Seattle-area workers. “It’s disconcerting, at best, to see this airplane program held over our members’ heads and our community.”
Boeing also builds the 787 Dream)liner in North Charleston, South Carolina. The company is considering merging the two operations, as employment has dropped due to the global pandemic. This causes jobs and production to be reduced. Demand for the 787 dropped dramatically, forcing the company to cut production to six aircraft per month and to close one of the two lines.
The consolidation study is a “charade” that “may simply be masking a decision that is already made,” Holden wrote in the union’s September newsletter. Threatening to move the jet’s production away from the Machinists “echoes previous tactics that Boeing employed to wrangle union concessions and win other economic benefits.”
Holden added that midterm changes to the contract, which expires in 2024, could only occur after a vote by the union’s membership. The leadership has “no intention of approaching the company for concessions,” Holden said.
An Analysis and Study on Production
Ken Herbert, an analyst for Canaccord Genuity, said, “It’s hard to envision a scenario where it’s not consolidated into one location. On the surface, Charleston would seem to be the logical choice.” The study is fueling anxiety in the Seattle area, which already has borne deep cuts to Boeing’s workforce.
Everett, the company’s largest campus, with about 30,000 workers, faces the end of production of the 747 in the next two years. Losing the Dreamliner also entails the complex would produce just 60 planes a year.
Statement from Local Dealers
Local dealer Dave Somers said, “Boeing has revealed little of what’s on the table and hasn’t appealed for state or local aid yet.” He’s been meeting with local leaders to determine if they could offer economic development assistance.
Somers states that State lawmakers had been “gun-shy” since billions of dollars in incentives for Boeing’s 777X wide-body were scrapped because they ran afoul of international trade law. “Everybody is brainstorming, we’re going to lay out the case that we’re always improving our workforce development programs.”
Boeing has invested heavily in South Carolina, a state long hostile to unions, since a 2008 Machinists strike in Washington. The southeastern plant also serves as insurance against the earthquake-prone Pacific Northwest.
But the North Charleston factory experienced teething pains as Boeing pushed 787 manufacturing to record paces. Most recently, the company grounded eight Dreamliners after unearthing production flaws linked to the South Carolina facility.
The Machinists have until the end of this month to make the case for Everett. The union has a staff to craft proposals for keeping work packages, typically smaller ones, that Boeing has targeted to be moved outside the Seattle area. This will be the group’s first effort to keep a final-assembly operation.
Featured image: Boeing 787-9 Everett Factory. Photo: Boeing.