In Long Beach, California, Boeing and C-17 factory workers have reached a tentative labor agreement that could end a strike that has shut down Southern California’s last remaining major airplane factory for nearly a month.

The strike came as Boeing was facing the prospect of closing the plant in 2012 because of slowing orders for the C-17, a four-engine military cargo plane. Although the plane has been a workhorse for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force has said it now has enough C-17s to fulfill its airlift mission. Boeing has been able to win several small contracts with foreign buyers to help extend the life of the factory until 2012.

The strike has affected nearly 700 suppliers employing 30,000 people in 44 states. In Long Beach, the Boeing plant is the largest private employer. In addition to the 1,700 striking assembly workers, the C-17 program employs an additional 3,000 people in various support and administrative positions.

C-17 is a large military transport aircraft used for rapid strategic airlift of troops and cargo to main operating bases or forward operating bases throughout the world. It has the ability to rapidly deploy a combat unit to a potential battle area and sustain it with on-going supplies.

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