| OLYMPIA, Wash.
OLYMPIA, Wash. Dec 30 Boeing Co will not
build the wing for its new 777X jetliner in Washington state if
members of its largest union reject its latest contract offer in
a Friday vote, company executives told Seattle-area elected
officials on Monday.
But the company did not rule out locating final assembly of
the plane or construction of its fuselage in the Puget Sound
area if members of the 31,000-strong International Association
of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 turn down
the proposal, three officials at the meeting said.
"They made it very clear that if there is a 'no' vote on the
contract, they will not build the composite wing here," said
Suzette Cooke, mayor of Kent, Washington. "It left the other
parts of the plane in question."
The location of the final assembly and wing fabrication is
in question because union members rejected Boeing's contract
offer, prompting Boeing to look for other locations around the
country, and prompting 22 bids from rival states.
The new 777X jet program, an updated version of Boeing's
best-selling wide-body plane, represents a good slice of
Washington state's aerospace future. Combined, the assembly line
and wing factory would be worth thousands of jobs and billions
of dollars to the region that lands them.
Japan has bid for the wing work, too, building on its
experience making composite wings for Boeing's advanced 787 jet.
Officials in Washington are concerned that without the wing
factory, the state would fall behind in composite technology and
would lose out in the future.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder declined to confirm what company
officials said at the closed-door meeting, but said by email
that Friday's union contract vote will be the last chance for
workers to weigh a Boeing offer before the airplane maker
decides where to locate work on the new aircraft.
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick described the
hour-long meeting with company officials, led by Boeing
Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner, as "very
positive" and said the company appeared genuine in its desire to
build the 777X - the only jet it is likely to develop in the
next 15 years - in Washington state.
"They weren't threatening us, just giving us information,"
In November, machinist union members voted 2-to-1 against
the company's initial contract offer.
The eight-year contract extension would have kept 777X
production in Washington state. But in exchange, management
wanted to replace the workers' pension plan with a 401(k)-style
retirement savings account and raise their healthcare costs.
Boeing later made a revised offer that included a larger
signing bonus and other concessions, and asked union leaders to
endorse it. But the local union leaders refused to endorse it or
put it up for a vote, saying the changes were insignificant.
National machinist union leaders, who have been more open
than local union officials to making concessions in exchange for
an extended contract, subsequently announced that the proposal
would be put to a vote.
Construction of the 777X wing is particularly important
because the technology in making it likely will be used in
future Boeing aircraft. Boeing has proposed building a 1.2
million square-foot factory to house production of the 777X
"The composite wing is the wave of the future," said Renton
Mayor Denis Law. "It is one of the ways that aerospace can grow
in this state."
Cooke said she was optimistic that union members would pass
Boeing's eight-year contract extension proposal.
"It is such a sweet deal," she said, noting that under the
proposal Boeing machinists would enjoy better pay and benefits
than most other American manufacturing workers.