The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Long Beach pushes for Boeing to bring 777X jetliner assembly to town

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Long Beach leaders are trying to persuade Boeing to move its 777X commercial jet production from the state Washington to their city — production that may be moving now that a labor union representing Seattle area workers has rejected a new contract.

Long Beach certainly has incentive to go after the Seattle area jobs: Southern California faces a loss of 2,000 jobs when Boeing shuts down its airplane assembly plant in Long Beach by 2015.

Rather than accept concessions, Boeing workers in the Seattle area — members of  a union that's part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers — rejected a contract that would have secured their jobs through an eight-year extension, from 2016 to 2024.  That decision throws into question the future of those jobs.

The union's website says the 777X production has been estimated to bring 10,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs to the area.

Long Beach would love to have some of those jobs. Long Beach City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske said Boeing jobs currently represent about 3 percent of the total jobs in in the city. 

"Long Beach needs to fight for jobs and a strong economic environment," Schipske said in a statement released on Thursday. "It's time to prepare a proposal and a plan to bring Boeing here. We need to pursue all avenues to bring the 777X assembly to our city."

Schipske said she will submit a council agenda item for the city to fund an economic impact study, which she says is needed for the governor's office to determine potential incentives for Boeing. The study would delve into the economic loss to Long Beach if Boeing leaves the city.

She said such a study, by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, could cost $15,000. But the cost could be split between the City of Long Beach, United Aerospace Workers Local 148 and the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce.

As for the Seattle union, it said in a statement on its website that it voted down the contract, in part because it was concerned about the contract's impact on pensions:

“We preserved something sacred by rejecting the Boeing proposal. We’ve held on to our pensions and that’s big. At a time when financial planners are talking about a ‘retirement crisis’ in America, we have preserved a tool that will help our members retire with more comfort and dignity."

With no contract approval in Washington, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company is "actively pursuing all of our options" in regards to the 777X.

"It is safe to say that everything is back on the table," Alder wrote in an email to KPCC.

He declined to say which sites were being considered.

The Seattle Times reports that potential cities include Salt Lake City, Huntsville, Ala., and Long Beach.

Alder said Boeing has no timeline for a decision to be made. He added that the company still plans to launch the 777X before the end of the year, as scheduled.

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