EVERETT, Wash. - Striking Boeing Co. production workers hunkered down Saturday for what could be along, bruising battle with costly repercussions for both sides.
Greeted by friendly honking from passing vehicles, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers responded with cheering and blasts from handheld air horns Saturday at plants from Frederickson to Everett as cloudy skies gave way to warm and sunny weather.
How long are workers used to receiving some of the top blue-collar wages in the Puget Sound area prepared to go without pay?
"As long as it takes," said Scott Robertson, who works in final assembly of 737s in Renton, adding that he has money saved up to last three months.
"It's been about lack of respect," said Steve Morrison, 42, a tester in Everett plant. "They always tell us we're valued much but labor is the first out the door, the first to be outsourced."
Linda Herrmann, a sealer in Renton, told The News Tribune of Tacoma she initially resisted the idea of striking but changed her mind after hearing from both sides.
Besides, she added, "we have to stick together. You have to. You have to."
As of midday Saturday no talks had been scheduled, said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the union's District Lodge 751.
The Machinists, representing about 25,000 workers in the Puget Sound area, 1,500 in the Portland, Ore. area and about 750 in Wichita, Kan., began picketing at 12:01 a.m. with the expiration of a 48-hour contract extension that had been requested by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and a federal mediator.
Negotiations with the aid of a federal mediator during the unusual post-strike vote extension failed to resolve the dispute over pay, outsourcing, retirement benefits, health care provisions and other issues.
Union members who assemble Boeing's commercial planes and some key components voted 80 percent Wednesday to reject Boeing's final three-year contract offer and 87 percent to go on strike.
Union leaders said Boeing did not present a comprehensive new offer during the last-ditch talks. Scott Carson, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the two sides were too far apart to reach agreement in time to prevent a walkout.
It's the first time the union has struck in consecutive contract cycles at Boeing and the shortest period — three years — between walkouts. The union was on strike for 24 days in 2005.
The company said it would not try to assemble planes during the strike.
Boeing's commercial airplane operations, based in the Seattle area, have led a resurgence by the company over the past two years amid heavy orders for the much-awaited and increasingly delayed 787.
Analysts have said a strike could cost Boeing about $100 million a day in deferred revenue. During the last strike, Boeing was unable to deliver more than two dozen airplanes on schedule.
As of July Boeing reported a backlog of airplane orders totaling $346 billion.