S.C. not among top 3 contenders for 777X work if union rejects contract, newspaper says

Jared Kalinski urges his fellow International Association of Machinists District 751 union members to vote no on Boeing’s contract offer Wednesday in Everett, Wash.

South Carolina is not among the top three contenders for Boeing’s new 777X plant if the Machinists union votes down a labor contract late Wednesday, according to a Seattle media report.

Though the Chicago-based aerospace company is amassing more land near its 787 Dreamliner campus at Charleston International Airport for an undisclosed use, The Seattle Times cited an internal analysis by Boeing that said Long Beach, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Huntsville, Ala., were the top three candidates.

Long Beach has a skilled workforce where the C-17 cargo jet is made, but the plant will be mothballed in 2015, leaving it open for a possible new use.

A Boeing facility in Salt Lake City makes horizontal stabilizer parts for the 787-9 Dreamliner. Huntsville doesn’t make airplanes for Boeing, but it heavily supports the company’s aerospace ventures.

“Boeing South Carolina is unlikely to be chosen because that complex needs all its resources to try to get the 787 Dreamliner on track,” the newspaper said.

Hints that the nonunionized plant in North Charleston was not in the running came out last week when local and state officials disclosed that no one in the Palmetto State has been talking incentives for Boeing to land the 777X project in North Charleston.

State Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, who controls the state’s money flow to a great degree and was heavily involved in previous deals to lure Boeing to South Carolina, said no one from the company has approached him seeking inducements for the new plane work. If Boeing comes calling, the state stands ready, he said.

Washington’s governor on Monday signed into law $8.7 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to ensure 777X work stays in the Evergreen State.

Boeing has made it no secret it will look elsewhere besides Washington state to produce its new generation of wide-body jetliners if the 31,000 members of the International Association of Machinists union in the Pacific Northwest reject the new labor agreement.

Speaking at a lecture Wednesday at the University of Montana, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said, “We will consider other alternatives if the vote goes negatively,” KING-TV station reported.

The eight-year contract calls for union concessions on pension and health care benefits, but it offers members a $10,000 signing bonus and other carrots to accept the deal. The agreement would ensure no strikes through 2024. The current contract expires in 2016.

Boeing South Carolina top executive Jack Jones would not comment Tuesday during a ground-breaking ceremony for a new jet-propulsion plant in North Charleston on South Carolina’s prospects of landing work for the 777X.

He reiterated Boeing’s stance that if the union vote fails, the company will exercise its right to look outside Washington state.

The union vote on paper ballots ended at 6 p.m. Pacific time (9 p.m. Eastern). Results are not expected until after midnight Eastern time, after The Post and Courier’s press deadline.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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