By Alwyn Scott
SEATTLE Dec 17 Boeing Co said on Tuesday
it is narrowing its list of sites for building its newest
jetliner, the 777X, to "a handful," signaling its determination
to consider locations outside Washington state where it now
builds similar planes.
In a letter to employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief
Executive Ray Conner said the company received proposals for 54
sites from 22 states, and aimed to cut the list down to a few
top picks this week.
Boeing opened the competition to all-comers last month after
machinist workers in Washington, who currently build 777 planes,
rejected a contract offer.
Conner did not say whether Washington state would be on the
short list, and Boeing declined further comment.
Conner's remarks appeared to harden the standoff after union
leaders last week rejected a contract offer that would have
eliminated pensions and said Boeing had withdrawn the
The union, the International Association of Machinists
District 751, said Boeing wanted its leaders to unanimously
endorse the new contract offer and sell it on the shop floor.
"Our guys said, 'No, we can't do that,'" District spokesman
Bryan Corliss said on Tuesday.
Corliss said Boeing withdrew the offer after union leaders
declined to endorse it.
Conner acknowledged asking union leaders to support the
offer and put it to a vote. But he said they rejected it "plain
and simple, and we now have to turn and face the reality of the
union leadership's final decision."
The location of the new jet is a key concern. Boeing's 777X
will be a derivative of its top-selling wide-body plane, with
new wings and engines, due out in 2020. Along with Boeing's
narrow-body 737 MAX jet due in 2017, it is expected to be
Boeing's only new jetliner program for the next 15 years. If it
goes to another state, it could mark the beginning of a long
winding down of aerospace work in Washington state.
Many analysts say Washington offers the lowest risk and
costs because Boeing already builds the 777 there, giving it
ready access to a trained work force and state incentives that
include low-cost land, easy permitting and $8.7 billion in tax
incentives passed by lawmakers last month.
Because of the high stakes for the state's major industry,
IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski is under pressure from
elected leaders to put the second offer to a vote.
A group of union members plan a rally on Wednesday near the
Everett, Washington, plant where the current 777 is built to
show support for a vote on the latest offer.
With just under 31,000 members, however, the rally would
need to draw a sizeable crowd to show the IAM that members
really want to consider the deal.