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MACHINISTS STRIKE THE BOEING CO.
WALKOUTS THREATEN FIRM’S ALREADY DELAYED PRODUCTION SCHEDULES

SHARE MACHINISTS STRIKE THE BOEING CO.
WALKOUTS THREATEN FIRM’S ALREADY DELAYED PRODUCTION SCHEDULES

Tens of thousands of machinists seeking a bigger share of record aircraft sales struck the Boeing Co. Wednesday, threatening already delayed production schedules at the world's largest aerospace company.

Workers in plants in at least seven states - including Boeing's base in the Puget Sound area, Portland, Ore., and Wichita, Kan. - took to the picket lines after a midnight Tuesday strike deadline."We have gone through the hard times with this company," Tom Baker, president of District Lodge 751, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said Tuesday. "We just want to go through the good times with them as well as the hard times."

More than 57,000 machinists, including 43,300 in the Seattle area, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject Boeing's three-year contract offer and reaffirm the strike deadline. The union represents the bulk of the company's production workers.

Dan Starkey was one of dozens of volunteers who showed up early Wednesday at the Boeing 747 plant in south Everett and joined pickets assigned to plant gates by strike coordinators.

"We've got to get things started here right and let the company know we mean business," said Starkey, an electrician on the 747 flight line.

The strike hits a company struggling to meet delivery schedules in the midst of its fifth consecutive year of record jetliner orders.

Airlines and leasing companies striving to replace their aging fleets and meet a surge in passenger traffic have ordered 736 planes worth $38.5 billion so far this year. Though Pentagon cutbacks have reduced military business, Boeing's commercial division has a backlog of nearly 1,600 jets worth about $70 billion, with deliveries extending into the mid-1990s.

The backlog has caused embarrassing delays in deliveries of the new 747-400 jumbo jet, Boeing's first in two decades, and forced workers to put in heavy overtime schedules.

"We're working on airplanes," said Dave Branson, another worker outside the Everett plant. "We shouldn't be working fatigued. They push for quantity, not quality."

Boeing vowed to meet delivery schedules "to the best of our ability." Spokesman Paul Binder said the company was combing its "skills index" to find supervisors to man assembly lines and keep airliners rolling out. He said there were no plans to bring in outsiders.