ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday that she feels bad for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee after this week’s union vote that left Boeing looking for other states to build its 777X.
Haley said she has spoken to top company officials to assure them South Carolina, where the company already assembles its 787 Dreamliner, is supportive of Boeing. Haley, speaking with reporters at a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce meeting, said it’s too early to talk about South Carolina putting together an incentive package to lure the 777X.
However, some state lawmakers say South Carolina can compete for the plant despite published reports mentioning three other locations as likely sites for the work – Long Beach, Calif., Salt Lake City and Huntsville, Ala.
South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell told The Post and Courier of Charleston that the union vote puts South Carolina in the mix. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell told WCSC-TV that he’s confident the state will make Boeing a competitive offer.
“I feel bad for the governor of Washington,” Haley said. “It’s a terrible thing when you see great industry in your state that is trying to work and you see unions go in and kill it and that’s basically what happened.”
Haley said she has been in contact with Boeing executives before and after the union vote.
She added she told Boeing “South Carolina is on standby and ready for you whenever you need them.”
Asked whether South Carolina would be putting together a 777X incentive package, Haley said “I think it’s too premature to talk about that. I think we need to look at what their situation is and, like I said, the best thing we can do for Boeing right now is be supportive.”
Boeing broke ground in nearby North Charleston on Tuesday for a plant that will make jet engine air inlets and that could one day be expanded to a variety of propulsion work.
Boeing Co. spokesman Doug Alder declined Thursday to specify where the company is now looking, saying there is no short list and that there are many places both within Boeing’s current operations and outside that are being explored.
“Everything is back on the table,” he said.
In a contract vote late Wednesday, the International Association of Machinists District 751 rejected a long-term contract proposal with 67 percent of the votes. Union members who called for a no vote did so in protest of Boeing’s push to end a traditional pension plan and increase their health care costs.
The deal would have exchanged those concessions for the long-term stability expected with the 777X line. Workers would have received a $10,000 signing bonus if they approved the deal.
“We preserved something sacred by rejecting the Boeing proposal. We’ve held on to our pensions and that’s big. At a time when financial planners are talking about a ‘retirement crisis’ in America, we have preserved a tool that will help our members retire with more comfort and dignity,” Tom Wroblewski, the District 751 president, said in a statement.