SEATTLE – Boeing announced Wednesday it will put its second 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in Charleston, S.C., a major blow to Everett, Wash. where the first 787 line is located.
"Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability to meet the market demand for the airplane," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in a statement.
The decision comes after secret talks in which Boeing and its Machinists union tried to hammer out a no-strike contract that could have ensured assembly of the long-delayed airliner would be exclusive to the Pacific Northwest.
It was six years ago, in 2003, when Washington won what was to be the first and only 787 production line in a state-to-state competition. But a lot has happened since then. With the troubled Dreamliner program now two years behind schedule, Boeing says it needs a second line to catch up on production.
After back-to-back Machinists strikes in 2005 and again in 2008, the company said its reputation as a reliable supplier came under fire from the airlines.
A lot changed last summer because of those Dreamliner troubles. Boeing ended up buying out one of its suppliers near Charleston. What had been Vought Aircraft Industries was now Boeing Charleston - Boeing's beachhead on the East Coast.
"Our relationship with the Machinists union was a factor, but it wasn't the only factor," said Boeing spokesman Russ Young.
But the company and the union couldn't come together on a contract that would have limited strikes.
"There were some meaningful discussions about production stability, about a longer term of agreement. There were a couple of things the union wanted that we just couldn't agree to, like work guarantees," said Young.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., tried to bring both sides back to the table Wednesday morning to talk about new union proposals.
"I am most disappointed because I really believed that the two sides could have come together and had a good deal for Boeing and the Pacific Northwest and, unfortunately, can't reach that now," said Murray.
But, Boeing was done.
"The opportunity to talk about things this morning, we had all the information we needed for the decision and the decision was made," said Young.
After the announcement, IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski came out swinging.
"I can tell you now, no matter what Boeing says or implies, the truth is this: We did offer Boeing a 10-year contract, and even offered to go longer than that. And when we did, they seemed stunned, and stopped talking," said Wroblewski in a statement. "It’s now clear that Boeing was only using our talks as a smoke screen, and as a bargaining chip to extort a bigger tax handout from South Carolina."
Albaugh said, despite the decision, the company remains committed to the Puget Sound region.
"While we welcome the development of this expanded capability at Boeing Charleston, the Puget Sound region is the headquarters of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Everett will continue to design and produce airplanes, including the 787, and there is tremendous opportunity for our current and future products here," Albaugh said.
"It hurts all of us," said Murray. "I grew up, like many people did, believing that Boeing was ours, the Pacific Northwest's and that we were all family, so it's hard to watch when you see something like this happen."
Gov. Christine Gregoire echoed her disappointment.
"We did all we could to demonstrate that Washington is the best place in America to build airplanes. State and local government worked hand in hand with our capable Congressional delegation, business and community leaders, educators and countless others to show our collective support for locating the second 787 assembly line here.