LOS ANGELES Boeing
Co.s major white- and blue-collar unions have both
greeted the companys realignment of its commercial
aircraft engineering operations with wariness.
Chicago-based Boeing said last
week that its Boeing Commercial Airplanes subsidiary is
establishing separate centers for engineering design in
Washingtons Puget Sound area, southern California and
South Carolina (
amm.com, May 31). These centers will compete for
future design work on Boeing programs, as well as the job of
performing the production work at those locations, according to
a company spokesman.
The spokesman told AMM
last week that the realignment wasnt related to the often
difficult labor relations that Boeing has had with its major
unions in the Northwest in recent years or the South Carolina
work forces prior vote against union representation. "We
expect all three of these centers to thrive," he said.
Nevertheless, the Society of
Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), whose
more than 23,000 engineering and technical members are located
primarily in the Puget Sound area, isnt happy about the
"Its disappointing that
such a great company, instead of building a team, looks to
promote internal competition between its own employees," a
spokesman for the union told AMM, arguing that SPEEA
members "have been instrumental in the design and engineering
of every successful product Boeing has had since 1946."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for
Boeings major union of production employees, the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
(IAM), said that it would refrain from commenting before it
sees "the fine print" of Boeings realignment policy.
But the IAM spokesman did say
that, in general, "its not unusual for a company to pit
workers in one location against workers in another." The union
represents nearly 30,000 Boeing employees in the Puget Sound
area, while it "doesnt represent any" in South Carolina,
Some observers said that
Boeings engineering realignment shouldnt come as a
surprise. James McNerney, Boeings chairman, president and
chief executive officer, reportedly said at a recent meeting of
investors that suppliers who dont cut their prices
wont be allowed to bid on new Boeing programs.
Aerospace industry sources noted
June 3 that aircraft production, as well as supply chain
capacity, has been migrating in recent years to the
southeastern United States. Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based
Airbus SAS broke ground on its first U.S. assembly plant in
Mobile, Ala., in April.
While the new southern
California engineering design groupwhich includes plants
of the former McDonnell Douglas Corp., acquired by Boeing in
1997will also compete for future work, one of its main
functions will instead be to provide support for Boeing
aircraft no longer being built.