The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

In a blow to Long Beach, Boeing workers vote to keep assembly of new plane in Washington

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Boeing workers in Washington approved a new labor contract, keeping production of the 777X passenger jet in the Puget Sound area and dashing the hopes of Long Beach officials who wanted the work to come to Southern California.

Just 51 percent of members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 approved the contract, which the union said would cut benefits, but keep 777X work in Washington state.

Union members went against their local union leadership that had been urging a a no vote on the contract. Boeing said it would move the work elsewhere if the workers had rejected the contract.

If that happened, Long Beach officials had hoped the 777X work would move here. Right now, a Boeing plant in Long Beach makes the C-17 Globemaster cargo plane,but Boeing is planning to stop making the plane in 2015, resulting in a loss of 2,000 jobs in Southern California. 

George Burden is the financial secretary for the United Aerospace Workers Local 148, which represents workers who make the C-17 and was hoping to land work on the 777X. He said he’s not giving up hope on alternatives to save the jobs of his members.

“Now, we’re going to have to work on a Strategy Plan B to see if we could get a piece of that airplane,” Burden told KPCC.

Burden said he hopes that the Long Beach plant could be used to make wing parts for the 777X while officials try to get more foreign orders for the C-17 to keep the plant open.

For its part, Boeing welcomed the vote by the machinists in Washington state. 

“Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter,” said Ray Conner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO in a statement.  “We’re proud to say that together, we’ll build the world’s next great airplane—the 777X and its new wing—right here.” 

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