Washington State Battles S. Carolina For Boeing 787

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Losing the second assembly line for Boeing Co.'s new 787 jetliner to another state wouldn't be the end of aerospace in Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

In her second straight day of high-profile public statements on Boeing's plans for a new facility, the Democratic governor also made it clear that the company's tattered relationship with its Machinists union is the most important factor left unresolved.

Boeing is expected to choose a location for the new 787 facility by year's end. Washington, home of the company's commercial airplane division and the existing 787 assembly line, is competing with South Carolina for the new project.

Gregoire said the state is fighting hard to win the next 787 line. She said Washington has made a compelling financial case for keeping 787 production in Washington, including an existing multibillion-dollar tax and incentive package.

Boeing officials, she said, now consider that part of the case closed.

"With regard to the second 787, very clear statement made to me: There's nothing more that you can do. We are on the road to making a decision, everything that is on the table is on the table," Gregoire said.

That leaves labor relations as the key question mark for Washington. Boeing wants to reach a no-strike agreement with the state's Machinists, who waged an eight-week work stoppage last year.

The union and management have been in talks. Gregoire said she and other officials are working hard to foster a good relationship, but she declined to elaborate, citing sensitivity of the negotiations.

South Carolina, meanwhile, offers a relatively headache-free labor landscape: The state's labor policies give unions less power than they enjoy in Washington, and workers at Boeing's facility there recently voted to oust the Machinists.

Gregoire clearly is prepared for the possibility that South Carolina may win. While vowing not to give up, on Tuesday she repeatedly played up how robust the state's aerospace industry would be without a second 787 line.

"If we should, beyond my control, lose that second 787 -- I'm not throwing up my hands," Gregoire said. "I'm taking nothing for granted, and I'm going to work to keep every single job in the Boeing Co. here."

Further illustrating the point, Gregoire said the new 787 facility would mean up to 900 jobs, compared with an estimated 80,000 aerospace industry jobs in Washington now.

Gregoire also said losing the second 787 line would not necessarily signal future moves out of Washington by Boeing. She pointed in particular to support for Boeing's long-running hope to win an Air Force fuel tanker contract.

Boeing had no new reaction to Gregoire's Tuesday remarks. On Monday, responding to a Gregoire report promoting Washington's business climate for the 787 project, the company highlighted how crucial labor concessions are to the decision.

"We have always maintained that our world-class work force in Puget Sound is a major reason for Boeing's success. But repeated work stoppages have clearly damaged our reputation as a reliable supplier," spokesman Bernard Choi said.

Officials with International Association of Machinists District 751 in Seattle, which represents about 25,000 Boeing workers, did not immediately respond to Gregoire's remarks Tuesday.

In a statement Monday, district President Tom Wroblewski agreed with Gregoire's assessment that the state's business landscape was ideal. But regarding any contract changes, Wroblewski said only that the union was in regular meetings with Boeing leadership.

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