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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee reacted negatively to a decision by aircraft maker Boeing to move production of its 787 Dreamliner to a South Carolina plant next year, insisting that those jobs return when aircraft sales increase again.
In a press conference Thursday, Inslee said his state, which he said has led the world in aerospace manufacturing and talent development for a century, has also provided a wealth of infrastructure and tax breaks to the plane-making giant over the years, suggesting that the company’s decision to leave was based solely on self-interest.
“We know about 1,000 Washingtonians face job uncertainty as a direct result of this decision, and it creates uncertainly for many, many other employees including folks, potentially, in the supply chain of this wonderful airplane,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials with Boeing indicated the move was necessary as a means of furthering the plane maker’s economic recovery, The Wall Street Journal reported. Sales have fallen dramatically over the past couple of years due to the grounding of its newest 737 iteration after two deadly crashes and an overall travel downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let me be clear – when the market for airplanes comes back, Boeing must bring these jobs back to Washington state.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) October 1, 2020
“It should not be lost on us that, even in the face of this news, that there are still tens of thousands of Boeing employees…throughout our very vigorous aerospace industry,” Inslee, adding that the 787 “is one of the best planes ever built.”
That said, Inslee appears to be clearly concerned about the future of airline production in his state.
“Today’s news does not instill confidence regarding Boeing’s similar decisions going forward and the future of aerospace in our state,” he said, noting that the aircraft maker did not even offer a scenario in which it would keep 787 production in Puget Sound, where it is currently manufactured.
“The dynamics of our partnership with the Boeing company, to some degree, has changed,” he said.
Boeing announced in July that it was considering options as a means of dealing with a slowdown in the demand for the 787. And earlier this year, the planemaker said it was planning to cut about 10 percent of its workforce, though due to additional travel slumps as a result of the pandemic, the company is now said to be considering workforce cuts in addition to the 19,000 already planned.
The Dreamliner has been built in Everett, Wash. since the plane went into production 10 years ago. In 2009, Boeing said it was planning a second line in South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state that has seen unionization attempts fail.
“Consolidating Dreamliner production in South Carolina would mark another step in the shift of the U.S. aerospace industry to southern states from the West Coast,” the WSJ reported. “Companies have already shed thousands of jobs in California while states including the Carolinas, Florida, and Alabama have attracted aerospace businesses with less-clogged infrastructure and cheaper, nonunionized labor, including an Airbus SE assembly plant in Mobile, Ala.”
What seems clear at this point is that aircraft manufacturing by Boeing in Washington will drop off even more in the next few years. At present, the aircraft maker produces 747s and 767s at the Everett plant, but the 747 program is set to end in 2022 while the manufacture of the new 777X will also be reduced as the first deliveries have been delayed until 2022.
Boeing produced 14 787’s per month last year but will reduce the output to 10. Next year, the maker will only produce six per month.
For his part, Inslee says the state will continue pushing for 787 jobs to return to Washington.
“I want to make very clear our position,” he said during the press conference. “When this market comes back, so should these jobs.”
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