One percent. That slim margin is all it took to send assembly of Boeing’s new 777x airliner to Washington state and end a bidding war for the work in which Long Beach was a top contender.

The approval of a deal late Friday by 51% of the 31,000-member International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 sends eight years of promised assembly work on the aerospace giant’s most anticipated commercial jet yet to the Puget Sound, but leaves the future of Long Beach’s dwindling aerospace industry again in limbo.

Boeing announced in September that it would be closing Long Beach’s C-17 production plant in 2015, after the international orders currently in place are delivered. Hopes to keep more than 3000 local jobs by obtaining more C-17 orders from countries like Qatar, Australia and Canada have proven fruitless. For some, bringing 777x production to Long Beach was a final effort to preserve these local aerospace jobs and maintain use of Boeing’s historic airport-adjacent facility.

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“Obviously, California would have loved to bring the 777X program home,” Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), chairman of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Aerospace, told the L.A. Times. “But we’ll continue to reach out to Boeing to try and bring manufacturing jobs to Long Beach.”

Washington’s IAM 751 had rejected an original deal in mid-November, opening up the opportunity for California to present a more appealing offer to lure 777x production to Long Beach, which it did with 47 of the state’s 53 congressional delegation signing a letter of support. Approval of the new deal with Washington on January 3, however, ended a bidding war that had grown to include 22 states. 

“Under the terms of the approved contract extension, the 777X and its composite wing will be built in the Puget Sound area by Boeing employees represented by the IAM,” the union said in a statement. “This work includes fuselage build, final assembly and major components fabrication such as interiors and wires.”

Both deals included cuts to employee wages and benefits, but the one that was eventually approved made some gains in healthcare and retirement for the workers (see comparison below).

Long Beach may have lost out on producing the 777x, but it showed that the experience of its local workforce and ideal Southern California location can be heavy competition at the negotiating table with future aerospace investors. 

“Either way, this opportunity has shown the country how ready Long Beach and California are to lead the new aerospace and technology economy,” Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal told the Press-Telegram. “We have all of the tools here in California to build a strong economic future across multiple industries. Aerospace is huge but the biotech industry is one that we are also hoping to attract.”

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IAM District 751 Boeing 777x Contract Comparisons