Boeing unions chip in $200,000 to effort to keep 737 line in state

  • By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
  • Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Business

The Boeing Co.’s unions are chipping in as much as $100,000 each toward an effort to help convince the company to design and build its upgraded 737 in Washington state.

The money will be used by the Washington Aerospace Partnership to fund an aerospace study outlining the state’s strengths an

d weaknesses in the industry. The study will give Washington leaders a “clear picture of what we need to do” to land Boeing’s re-engined 737 line, said Tayloe Washburn, co-chairman of the partnership. Gov. Chris Gregoire picked Washburn in June to lead the state’s campaign, dubbed Project Pegasus, to win future 737 work.

On Tuesday, leaders for Boeing’s Machinists union authorized a contribution of up to $100,000. The executive board of Boeing’s engineers union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, voted Aug. 11 to donate $100,000. The study is expected to cost $600,000.

Washburn declined to say on Wednesday how much money is left to be raised, given that many donations by business, labor and government still are being finalized. But Washburn is “very optimistic” that he’ll soon have the resources in place to get the study under way.

The 737 is the No. 1-selling plane that Boeing makes and it’s been in production for decades. Last month, Boeing said it will re-engine the Renton-built 737 rather than come out with an all-new aircraft. Jim McNerney, Boeing’s chief executive, shocked Puget Sound-area workers earlier this month by saying the company hasn’t decided where to build the updated 737. Renton had been considered a shoo-in given its experienced workforce.

Machinists President Tom Wroblewski is confident that the study will show the state’s advantages but will do it in “a language that Wall Street money managers — and executives at Boeing and other aerospace companies — understand.”

Together, the Machinists and SPEEA represent more than 50,000 Boeing workers in Washington.

Boeing’s Jim Albaugh, president of commercial airplanes, recently told Renton workers that the company will make its choice in six to eight months.

“We take a hard look at what makes the most sense for the customer and what makes the sense for the corporation … and this place has an awful lot going for it,” Albaugh told workers.

Washburn said the study will take about two months to complete.

Although other competitiveness studies have been done regarding aerospace in Washington, Washburn said the constantly changing nature of the industry demands a fresh look. The last time Washington competed for Boeing work — for the second 787 production line in 2009 — it lost out to South Carolina. The company’s pick of North Charleston is the subject of a controversial federal lawsuit by the National Labor Relations Board.

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