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Boeing strike hurting suppliers

Some firms beginning to cut work force

EVERETT, Wash. – The Machinists strike against The Boeing Co., now into its second month, is having ripple effects across the country on companies that do business with Boeing.

But the strike is especially tough for many of the smaller suppliers and machine shops in Washington state that make parts for Boeing – for planes that are not being built because the strike has stopped jetliner production.

Some depend on Boeing for most of their work. From Spokane to Seattle, a few have laid off workers. And others soon will if the strike lasts much longer.

Late Wednesday, the Machinists union announced that it and the company agreed to return to the bargaining table. Details on the timing hadn’t been worked out.

With a record backlog of planes to build, Boeing’s jet-making operations were flush before the strike, which began Sept. 6. Suppliers were racing just to catch up.

“If this strike is not resolved in the next month, it will have very serious effects on many of these (Boeing suppliers in Washington),” said Eric Barnes, market development manager for Liberty Lake-based Altek Machining and Molds Inc., which makes subcomponents for avionics and controls that go into Boeing jets. Altek has not had to lay off any workers so far. “We are still filling the pipeline,” Barnes said. “But the shoe will drop if this lasts much longer.”

Boeing is the state’s largest employer, and the aerospace industry directly and indirectly employs about 210,000 people.

Federal Way-based Orion, which fabricates structural components for all of Boeing jets, has cut its work force about 15 percent because of the strike, said general manager Tom Brosius. Orion has about 110 employees.

One of Boeing’s bigger in-state suppliers has been hit hard by the strike. Triumph Composite Systems in Spokane, which was part of Boeing until it was sold a few years ago, previously announced it would lay off at least 220 of its 550 workers because of the strike. Triumph makes air ducts and composite floors for Boeing. Nationally, the fallout from the strike is growing. The Barnes Group of Bristol, Conn., which supplies aerospace parts, said last week that it was withdrawing its earnings guidance for the full year because of the strike.

And Wednesday, Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc. announced that sales from its New York facility fell $2 million below expectations, mainly because the strike reduced shipments to the jet maker.

Boeing’s biggest subcontractor, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan., has reduced its work week to avoid layoffs.