Boeing begins cutting workers

By Bryan Corliss and Susanna Ray

Herald Writers

About 7,000 Boeing Co. workers around Puget Sound got layoff notices Friday, as the company began the first of three planned rounds of layoffs.

Boeing didn’t have specific plant-by-plant figures available Friday, spokesman Tom Ryan said, so it wasn’t clear how many Everett workers got the warnings.

However, a Boeing management source said that an estimate of 2,500 lost jobs in Everett was "not far off." Boeing has about 25,000 workers at Everett and plans to lay off about 10 percent of its workforce in Commercial Airplanes by Dec. 14.

In all, 12,000 jobs will be eliminated by then, Ryan said. Of those, 9,000 people will be cut through layoffs. The rest will come with retirements, normal attrition and by cutting contract workers.

The layoffs were announced a week after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The attacks crippled the world’s airlines, leaving them unable to pay for new jets, Boeing officials said. As a result, the company plans to slash between 20,000 and 30,000 workers from its commercial airplanes and shared services payrolls.

Layoff notices started going out to workers on the third shift Thursday night, Ryan said.

Brent Dickson of Stanwood said he expected to get one when he arrived for work on the second shift Friday. Dickson, a mechanic working on 777 wings, just came back to work at Boeing in August. He’d been laid off in 1999 and had gone to school to study multimedia technology — a hot computer-related field when Dickson started classes, but one that tanked just as he was completing his courses.

Unable to find a job in his new career, he went back to his old one on Aug. 16. The layoffs were announced two months later.

Everybody at Boeing gets laid off once, Dickson said. "But they said if you’ve been laid off once, you’ll never be laid off again."

Not this time.

As workers streamed out of Boeing’s Everett factory Friday afternoon, many said the layoffs had been a nonissue during their shift but would probably hit the second-shift employees like Dickson much harder, since many of them have less seniority.

"It wasn’t that bad. There weren’t really too many people in our area who will be let go. At least until the next time," said Roy Christenson, a machinist from Marysville who has worked for Boeing for 14 years. "Everybody expected this, even before Sept. 11. Of course, this time next year, it might get a little more depressing."

Mark Johnson, a manufacturing engineer from Everett, was hired back at Boeing just a week ago after being laid off two years ago. He said he was upbeat about his prospects despite Friday’s layoffs.

"I’ll just hang on as long as I can," Johnson said. "I’m loyal to the company."

But Mike Maillet of Everett, a quality assurance inspector, had a gloomier outlook.

"Everybody’s worried," Maillet said. "If they go as deep as they say by next year, I’ll probably get laid off, even with my 13 years (of working for Boeing). It’s looking worse than it’s been before."

The Machinists union expected 3,027 of its Puget Sound members to get notices Friday. Of the 1,794 engineers and technicians getting pink slips, only 396 were union members, said Bill Dugovich, spokesman for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. The rest of the cuts came from the ranks of individually contracted employees.

Any layoffs at Boeing are bad news, but "at least we were able to protect some of our members," Dugovich said.

Boeing workers have gone through layoffs before; in fact, many have come to expect them as work for the aerospace giant ebbs and flows.

What’s unusual this time is that despite a slight slowdown in airplane orders, no one could see the layoffs coming.

"People are stunned," said Connie Kelleher, spokeswoman for the Machinists union.

Some engineers are also still recovering from a 40-day strike last year that depleted many of their savings accounts, said Maria Nelson, contract administrator with SPEEA.

In addition to the 60-day notice, laid-off Boeing workers will receive one week of severance pay for every year worked, to a maximum of 26 weeks, plus three months of health care coverage.

Boeing workers also can receive job placement assistance, tuition reimbursement and other aid.

But those who work with laid-off workers admit that times are bleak. The high-tech industry, once a haven for unemployed Boeing engineers, is in a crisis of its own, and other jobs in the region are scarce as well.

Many workers are frustrated by reports that it could take years for the aviation industry to rebound.

"Some employees tell me, ‘I’m facing layoffs for the fourth time now in my career,’ and yet they always come back," Nelson said. "But then eventually they say, ‘I’m tired of this roller-coaster existence.’ "

David Goodsell, a structure mechanic from Lynnwood who works at Boeing’s Renton plant, expected to receive a layoff notice when he reported for the swing shift on Friday. He was recalled to work less than a month ago after a 26-month layoff.

"Pretty much I’m going into deep thinking about a (new) career," said Goodsell, 38.

Boeing will cut 1,645 jobs at its Wichita, Kan., jetliner factory, spokesman Dick Ziegler said, including salaried and hourly employees. "It’s painful to do," he said.

Combined with attrition and 150 previously announced layoffs at Boeing Airplane Services, the company expects to cut 2,100 jobs at Wichita by the end of this year, Ziegler said. The layoffs announced Friday should be the last for 2001, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

You can call Herald Writer Bryan Corliss at 425-339-3454

or send e-mail to

You can call Herald Writer Susanna Ray at 425-339-3439

or send e-mail to

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