Machinists Union to Trump: Bring Boeing Jobs Home

Boeing-COMAC partnership draws criticism amidst presidential visit.

(Image courtesy of Boeing.)

(Image courtesy of Boeing.)

U.S. President Donald Trump continued to flaunt his support for American manufacturing on Friday, at the debut of Boeing’s 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft in North Charleston, S.C.

“What’s happening here at Boeing South Carolina is a true American success story,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO. “In just a few short years, our team has transformed a greenfield site into a modern aerospace production facility that is delivering 787s to airlines all over the world and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs in the process.”

[T]hat is one beautiful airplane,” said President Trump. “Congratulations to the men and women here who have built it. What an amazing piece of art. What an amazing piece of work.”

However, not everyone was so positive about Boeing’s prospects.

Robert Martinez, Jr., international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, released a statement in anticipation of Trump’s visit to Boeing, imploring the President to urge Boeing to bring jobs home.

“During his visit to South Carolina, we hope the President will urge Boeing, which receives billions in taxpayer money, to bring work back home to the United States, instead of continuing to ship jobs overseas,” Martinez said.

“Boeing’s willingness to turn its back on U.S. workers who have made the company so successful represents the business model that the President has so heavily criticized. … We encourage the President to stand up for American manufacturing and American workers.”

This criticism stems from Boeing’s partnership with China’s state-run aerospace company, COMAC.

COMAC, Boeing and Airbus

In November 2015, the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (aka, COMAC) unveiled the C919, China’s first narrow-body passenger plane. Despite the fact that the C919 will be competing with Boeing’s 737 (along with Airbus’ A320), the American and Chinese companies have partnered to build a new finishing facility for the 737 in Zhoushan.

The facility, which will install cabin interiors and paint airline liveries on 737s for Chinese airlines, is Boeing’s first offshore plant.

The company’s biggest competitor, Airbus, already has a manufacturing presence in China; its first assembly line outside Europe opened in Tianjin in 2008. Airbus also has an engineering center in Beijing and a composite manufacturing center in Harbin.

Airbus and Boeing have been hungrily eying the Chinese market for some time, and the additional competition from COMAC will only intensify the fight for dominance in the APAC region. This puts the American company in an awkward position, especially in light of Trump’s “America First” ethos.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the contrast between Trump’s remarks and those from the machinists’ union:

“We’re here today to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing,” said Trump. 

“We’re also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs. This plane, as you know, was built right here in the great state of South Carolina. Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made right here in the U.S.A.”

“Components and parts for other Boeing aircraft, especially the 787, are spread throughout the world,” said Martinez. “This represents the loss of the highly-skilled, leading-edge technology-based jobs that U.S. workers should be performing.”

Can Boeing compete with Airbus and COMAC while keeping jobs in the USA?

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