- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing machinists went on strike yesterday, forcing the aerospace company to halt production of commercial airplanes after the two sides failed to agree on a new labor contract.

The strike affects about 18,400 machinists in the Seattle area, Wichita, Kan., and Gresham, Ore.

About 40 picketers were at Boeing’s main gate early yesterday in Renton, the plant south of Seattle that assembles 737s, chanting at morning commuters, “What time is it? Union time,” and “Union power.”

Some passing cars honked in support, and one woman slowed down to hand off a bag of McDonald’s breakfast food to cheering strikers.

“It’s one thing to bring us a bad contract during an industry downturn, but it’s something else to bring us a bad contract when things are looking up,” said Paul Veltcamp, a nine-year employee picketing 30 miles north at the Everett plant, where 747s are built.

He said union members feel Boeing’s contract offer is worse than the pact negotiated in 2002 that expired yesterday.

“We’re not asking for the moon,” said 30-year Boeing worker David Tennent. “Just give us something so we can be proud to work at the Boeing Co.”

The International Association of Machinists, who assemble Boeing’s commercial airplanes and some key components, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to strike, rejecting a three-year contract proposal their leaders called “insulting.”

A Boeing spokesman said the strike meant the company would immediately stop assembling commercial airplanes, dealing a blow to the jet maker just as business at its commercial airplane division appeared to be picking up.

“We don’t intend to assemble airplanes during this strike,” Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said.

Shares of Boeing fell $1.65 to $64.34 on the New York Stock Exchange. Boeing shares have traded in a 52-week range of $48.10 to $68.38.

“If the company wants to talk, they can call me,” Mark Blondin, president of Seattle-based Machinists District Lodge 751, said after announcing 86 percent approval for the strike authorization Thursday.

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