Boeing to move 1,000 engineering jobs to Calif.

By Dan Catchpole Herald Writer

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. announced Thursday that it is moving about 1,000 engineering jobs to Southern California from metro Puget Sound, including Everett.

The jobs provide customer support for in-service airplanes, work which Boeing is centralizing at its Long Beach and Seal Beach sites.

The move will be finished by the end of next year and affects engineers supporting the Next Generation 737, 747, 767 and 777 models, as well as two military variants — the KC-46 tanker and the P-8 submarine chaser.

The jobs are moving, but not necessarily the workers, who are effectively being laid off.

If they want to keep their current jobs after the move, they have to compete with outside applicants, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said.

An internal Boeing memo about the move states, “We expect that many of the affected employees in Washington state will be offered positions with other programs in the Puget Sound area.”

However, other jobs here are not guaranteed.

Engineers providing support for new jetliner models — the 787 Dreamliner, 737 MAX and 777X — will stay in metro Puget Sound for now.

The 737 MAX work will move to California around 2020, according to the memo.

Boeing started the re-organization last year when it set up engineering design centers in metro Puget Sound, Southern California and North Charleston, S.C.

“We see Southern California clearly as specializing in customer support. We look at Puget Sound as primarily developing new airplanes, and North Charleston as 787 and composite body work,” Alder said.

A fourth center in Moscow has about 300 to 400 engineers handling a broad range of work.

Currently, the Puget Sound design center has approximately 2,300 engineers. About 1,600 positions are in customer support. So the move will leave about 600 of those jobs here.

The company already has about 1,800 engineering jobs in California. That includes about 500 in customer support services it moved from Washington last year.

The move shifts jobs to a non-union shop.

“This is a significant number of jobs” moving, said Bill Dugovich, spokesman for the the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the union representing the affected workers.

“The expertise is here,” he said.

When Washington extended huge tax breaks for Boeing in November, the state didn’t require the company to keep engineering jobs here.

“We pointed that out to the governor, we pointed that out to the Legislature, and they still went ahead and did it,” Dugovich said.

Boeing’s “decision was a business strategy, not a labor strategy,” Alder said.

For years, the company has had trouble attracting engineers to work in metro Puget Sound, and the move allows the company to tap into Southern California’s engineering talent pool, he said.

That pool includes new graduates from the state’s several colleges with engineering programs, as well as engineers on Boeing’s C-17 line, which is shutting down next year.

The move helps the company stay competitive, which benefits all of its roughly 169,000 employees around the world, Alder said. About half of the workforce is in Washington.

In the past two years, Boeing has been in-sourcing many jobs that previously had been contracted out, he said.

Demand for big commercial jetliners is expected to continue expanding over the next 20 years. And Boeing expects its design centers to grow as well, Alder said. “As long as they can stay competitive, they’re going to get future work packages.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.