Strike has ripple effect on local economy

EVERETT — When 10,675 Snohomish County residents go six weeks without a paycheck, their families aren’t the only ones to feel the squeeze.

Nearly half of the 24,000 Puget Sound region Machinists who went on strike against the Boeing Co. on Sept. 6 live in the county. In an already troubled economy, the strike is beginning to take its toll on businesses as well as workers. And no new contract talks between the company and union have been scheduled.

“It’s very challenging. What we are seeing is that the anxiety level is already high,” said Jean Hales, president and chief executive officer of the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce in Lynnwood.

Business owners, also reeling from the sluggish national economy, hope that Boeing and the union will reach an agreement before Thanksgiving, Hales said.

The strike is just one factor gripping the county’s economy, said Donna Thompson, an economist for the state Employment Security Department.

The housing market’s downturn has hurt construction and manufacturing, Thompson said. On Tuesday, Milgard Manufacturing announced it will close its Marysville window and door plant. High fuel prices spurred the closure of Meridian Yachts’ manufacturing plant in Arlington.

“People are pulling back. They’re not spending,” Thompson said.

But some companies hope discounts will entice Machinists to spend.

Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce President Steve Berry owns Jersey Mike’s Subs in Mukilteo, which is handing out coupons to strikers on the picket lines to help them afford lunch — and to entice them to regularly grab a bite at Jersey Mike’s once the strike is over.

Dr. Steven Shlafer, a Mill Creek pediatrician, said he offers free service for children of the Machinists, whose health insurance ran out on Oct. 1.

“We don’t charge striking people. It’s a solidarity of working together. When you strike, it’s the only power you have,” he said.

Some businesses are offering discounts mainly to show support for the union. Heidi Brandt, of North County Towing in Arlington, said the business offers 10 percent off towing in Snohomish County for strikers. She says she’s got a friend who works at Boeing, and she wanted to help.

Jori Beltran, who owns Maui Tan, a tanning parlor in Renton, has deals for Machinists who want that bronzed look.

Union members can get one month of tanning for $24.95 — $3 off the regular price. They can also get $10 off any regular price packages of 10 tans or more, and 20 percent off any tanning products.

“Tanning will help people physically and mentally,” Beltran said.

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