"We're concerned about our state, Long Beach and the impact it would have on us," said Burden, political director of the United Auto Workers Local 148, which represents C-17 line workers.
"With me, it's not about jobs, jobs, jobs. Everybody's looking for a job these days. It's about why would we cede the airplane we build to a foreign country?"
The UAW plans to stage a rally in support of the threatened cargo plane program at 2:45 p.m. Thursday in front of the Boeing Fitness Center, 2019 E. Wardlow Road. The event, which will take place during a shift change to maximize attendance, is expected to draw 700 to 1,000 people.
Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, members of the City Council, the Teamsters Union and business people that depend on Boeing employees are expected to attend.
Though the event is being organized by the Lakewood-based union local, Boeing management also plans to participate. Jean Chamberlin, Boeing's vice president and manager of global mobility programs, the head of the C-17 program, accepted an invitation to address the workers.
"She's very appreciative of the effort by the union and the employees," said Boeing Co. spokesman Jerry Drelling.
The goal is to call attention to the federal budgetary threats to the C-17 and the effect it could have on Long Beach, Lakewood and surrounding areas, as well as communities nationwide dependent on the program.
Boeing employs about 5,800 workers in the Long Beach-based C-17 program. About 1,700 workers are represented by the UAW.
"We're really in kind of a predicament with sales," Burden said.
Boeing has said it needs 15 U.S. Air Force orders next year to keep the program going.
The House of Representatives included only three orders for the airlifter in its 2010 budget.
"The Senate reconvenes next month, so we're hoping they will add 15 C-17s to the budget when all is said and done," Drelling said.
Foreign orders alone cannot keep the program running because costs rise when fewer C-17s are built, he added.