Local, state and federal leaders have expressed frustration at Boeing’s decision last week to shut down its 787 jetliner production in Everett.
Though the company did not immediately say whether jobs would be eliminated in the move, about 1,000 people work on the 787 line, according to Boeing.
Boeing had a statewide workforce of more than 70,000 people before announcing in April that it was cutting 12,600 jobs largely due to COVID-19. More than 41,000 aerospace workers — spanning 200 firms, including Boeing — live in Snohomish County, according to county data.
“Our top concern is with the families, workers, suppliers and businesses this decision impacts,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a statement. “COVID-19 has pushed our economy into unwelcome and uncharted territory, and this is another result of the global pandemic. But we are resilient. We have survived tough times before, and we will get through this. We also know that Boeing has made long-term investments in Everett, and we will continue to support the important work that continues.
“Over the last few years, we have been aggressively strengthening our training programs to make sure we have the gold standard workforce development system,” he continued. “Snohomish County will continue to diversify our economy, support our job creators, and attract new businesses, including future investments from Boeing.”
Paine Field now accounts for $60 billion in annual economic impact, as well as more than 158,000 jobs, according to Snohomish County, which had about 415,000 residents employed pre-pandemic.
Boeing said it will move production to South Carolina in mid-2021. The company intends to keep assembling other jetliners — the 747, 767 and 777 — in Everett. However, the 747 is set to be phased out in 2022. The 737 is made in Renton.
“Consolidating to a single 787 production location in South Carolina will make us more competitive and efficient, better positioning Boeing to weather these challenging times and win new business,” Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing’s commercial aircraft business, told workers in an email.
In 2003, Washington gave Boeing about $100 million a year in tax breaks in an effort to keep plane production in the state. Those subsidies were revoked earlier this year after the World Trade Organization found them illegal.
“I understand the serious market forces Boeing faces today,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “What I don’t understand is why the company can’t commit to restoring production here when the market for this plane improves.”
Lawmakers and union officials in Washington said Boeing was wrong to abandon the skilled aerospace employees who worked on the 787 in the state. Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, said the union would "partner with community stakeholders to attract aerospace jobs to the state by marketing the aerospace talent pool Boeing is walking away from.”
Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, called the decision “bad news for organized labor,” saying "the workers in South Carolina will be taken advantage of, and it will be used to drive down the wages and benefits of workers in the Seattle area.”
The South Carolina plant is not unionized.
Snohomish County Council chairman Nate Nehring said in a radio interview last week that the region will likely “see the negative effects of this ripple throughout our local economy.”.
“I think this is going to have a tremendous impact on Snohomish County,” he said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, said he would fight to bring 787 production back to Washington once air travel rebounds calling Boeing’s decision shortsighted and misplaced.
“The strength of the Pacific Northwest’s aviation and aerospace industry includes the region’s strong education system, trained workforce, robust supply chain, extensive manufacturing experience and overall quality of life,” Larsen said. “We have earned our place as the leader in the U.S. aerospace industry and will continue to earn it.”
Let me be clear - when the market for airplanes comes back, Boeing must bring these jobs back to Washington state.— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) October 1, 2020
The strength of the PNW’s aviation & aerospace industry incs. strong ed system, trained workforce, robust supply chain, extensive manufacturing experience & overall quality of life. We've earned our place as the leader in the U.S. aerospace industry & will continue to earn it.— Rep. Rick Larsen (@RepRickLarsen) October 1, 2020