I’ve been saying for some time that the day Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago was the day the decision to ultimately move production out of the Puget Sound region became final. Amongst other things, Boeing execs and board members didn’t want to be bad corporate citizens; so they decided to give up their local citizenship.
So I’d be awfully surprised if Boeing doesn’t set up its second 787 assembly line in South Carolina, despite the fact that with 767 production coming to an end, its got the facility and the trained workforce in Everett already available to churn out both 787s and 777s on the same line. As Danny Westneat points out in the Seattle Times, Boeing appears intent on pursuing a cheap labor strategy Washington state simply isn’t able to accommodate. Nor should it.
Take away the heat, all the union-bashing or management second-guessing as Boeing now appears ready to move a major piece of its plane-building operations to South Carolina. At the core of this breakup drama is a cold statistic: 14.
As in $14. Per hour.
That’s the average pay of the local line workers who are building the fuselage of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner in a Charleston, S.C., plant.
Average pay of a Boeing Machinist around here? $28 an hour. Now, these pay averages aren’t directly comparable, say people in the know. Many of Boeing’s workers in South Carolina are younger or less experienced (the plant is only 4 years old). So the average pay there tilts lower.
Still, the average pay at Costco stores around Seattle is $17 an hour. According to PayScale, a Seattle company that tracks wages, the average for a hairstylist in Seattle is $18.24 an hour.
So Boeing right now is paying less to build airplanes in South Carolina than we pay for cutting hair or shelving 3-pound jars of olives.
How can we compete with that?
Of course, we can’t compete with that if Boeing insists that labor costs are the bottom line value in its production decisions, as it apparently has.
Ironically, when Boeing does announce the new line in South Carolina, Danny’s colleagues on the Times’ editorial page will no doubt lambast the unions for driving Boeing away, oblivious to the fact that their own union-busting rants, and that of their publisher, helped grease the skids for Boeing’s union-busting strategy. But it’s hard to blame labor for the loss of high wage jobs that wouldn’t remain high wage if the union were to accede to the demands that Boeing ultimately wants.
No, none of this really makes much economic sense. But who needs to make sense when you have a globalist, free market ideology to fall back on?