Five months ago at a Boeing factory in South Carolina, President Trump proclaimed, “We are going to fight for every last American job.”
On Thursday, workers at the North Charleston plant learned they’d soon face layoffs.
The airplane manufacturer announced it would be cutting “fewer than 200 people” at the 787 Dreamliner campus and other facilities in the city.
“Our competition is relentless, and that has made clear our need as a company to reduce cost to be more competitive,” Boeing said in a statement. “We are offering resources to those affected by layoffs to help them in finding other employment and ease their transition as much as possible.”
The company has yet to notify the affected employees — who work in operations management, engineering, quality control and training, among other roles — and represent a tiny sliver of its workforce in the state. Boeing would not say how many, exactly, could lose their jobs and when the dismissals will begin.
The South Carolina plant was Trump’s first company visit outside the Beltway after he became president. The point of the trip was not to unveil a major economic policy or promote a new White House initiative, though. Rather, Trump celebrated the launch of the company’s new Dreamliner model.
“We're here to day to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing,” Trump said at the time. “We're also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs!” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Boeing employs about 140,000 workers in the United States, mostly in Washington, California, Missouri and South Carolina. Roughly 50,000 work on the factory floor, putting planes together. Approximately 7,300 work in the Palmetto State.
In December, Boeing said it planned to cut jobs this year because of a dropping demand for new planes. The company revealed it would decrease production of the Boeing 777 by 40 percent in 2017.
By March, the company had accepted about 1,880 voluntary layoffs from employees in Washington state. Then nearly 500 workers near Seattle received involuntary layoff notices in April, according to the Seattle Times
Jonathan Battaglia, representative for the Machinists Union, which the Boeing employees in North Charleston voted not to join in February, said about 700 people in South Carolina have taken buyouts over the past year. The coming wave of layoffs at the North Charleston campus are the first involuntary dismissals to hit its South Carolina workforce.
“Despite Boeing’s promises, it’s clear that job security is something they don’t feel their so-called ‘teammates’ deserve,” Battaglia said. “This isn't about competitiveness, it's about more money for shareholders and executives.”
Boeing, meanwhile, promotes its investment in American jobs.
“Boeing’s market success plays a key role in supporting high-value aerospace jobs across its supply chain and across the United States,” according to the company website. “In 2015 alone, Boeing paid nearly $50 billion to more than 13,600 businesses, supporting an additional 1.5 million supplier-related jobs.”