Did Everett stand a chance to win second 787 line?

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on October 29, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 29 at 2:04 PM

SEATTLE - We can easily forget that Washington state had to compete to win the first 787 production line back in 2003, winning out against other states. At that time, there was no need for a second assembly line.

But now, that the Dreamliner program is two years behind schedule. Boeing needs the second line to catch up building the more than 800 787s that airlines have on order.

A byproduct of the production delays led to an opportunity. In July, Boeing bought out one of its suppliers in South Carolina, giving it new factories, and lot of land.

"I grew up like many people did believing that Boeing was ours and that we were all families, so it's hard to watch when you see something like this happen," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Murray tried to salvage a last-minute deal Wednesday to keep the line in Everett – to get the Machinists union and Boeing to hammer out a 10 year no-strike moratorium. The company says the talks had been promising, but by Wednesday, the time for talk was over.

"There were some meaningful discussions about production stability, about a longer term of agreement. There were a couple of things the union wanted that we just couldn't agree to, like work guarantees," said Boeing spokesman Russ Young.

It was not a good day for Gov. Christine Gregoire as questions were raised whether she could have provided bigger incentives on top of what the state provided the industry in 2003.

"I'm angry. I'm sad.  I'm Disappointed. I'm Frustrated. I'm all of those things wrapped into one," said Gregoire.

But the company says the incentive package offered by South Carolina was just one factor. There's also the question of risk. All of Boeing's airliners are assembled in the Puget Sound region, which is vulnerable to natural disasters.

"The relationship with the union and a long term agreement was one factor that was considered. It was not the only factor," said Young.

The union leadership is, unsurprisingly, angry.

"Boeing has betrayed our loyalty once again, walking away from our discussions just like they walked away from Seattle eight years ago to move (its corporate headquarters) to Chicago," said IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.

But both sides said something very interesting Wednesday. Even if the company got a ten year commitment not to strike, that might not have been enough for Boeing to commit to keep the second Dreamliner line in Puget Sound. 

Boeing says it didn't get to that point, as the union was asking too much - long term guarantees for wages, bonuses and even limiting the company's ability to make its case against union organizing efforts in other plants in other states.

For its part, the union says the company wasn't serious and that the talks were a smoke screen to get a better deal from South Carolina. The union also said it was willing to offer more than ten years without a strike.

 

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