Boeing Plans to Lay Off Up to 30,000 Workers

Boeing Co. plans to lay off as many as 30,000 commercial airplane workers by the end of next year as a result of an expected slowdown in orders caused by last week's terrorist attacks, the company said late Tuesday.

"We profoundly regret that these actions will impact the lives of so many of our highly valued employees," Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

"However, it is critical that we take these necessary steps now to size the Commercial Airplanes business to support the difficult and uncertain environment faced by our airline customers," he said.

Roughly 93,000 people work for Boeings' commercial airline sector, much of which is centered around the company's former headquarters in Seattle.

"We're all very distressed by it," Gov. Gary Locke said. "The repercussions of last week's terrorist activities are having far-reaching impacts, first to all the national airlines. They're laying off people, and they're not even sure they can take delivery of Boeing airplanes."

Locke said news of the Boeing layoffs illustrates how quickly the federal government must move to help the airline industry.

The White House and Congress are considering a federal aid package for the airline industry to help them recover from last week's attacks.

The industry has asked for $24 billion. The House floated a $15 billion relief plan last Friday that could include $2.5 billion in immediate grants and $12.5 billion in loans and credits.

Though the White House and congressional leaders suggested a multibillion-dollar package was on the way, they weren't offering a final dollar figure or timetable for debate.

The Bush administration could propose an aid package next week, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. The House may move forward this week, when it returns from a recess for the Jewish New Year holiday.

Boeing's stock has plunged since markets reopened this week. On Monday, the first regular day of trading the price fell $7.66. The price was down $2.66, to $33.14, when trading closed Tuesday.

Major carriers had promised layoffs of at least 26,000 people -- a number that could grow to 100,000. Many, including American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United, have also scaled back their schedules by about 20 percent.

With such declines, analysts have said layoffs at Boeing may be an inevitable side effect as orders for commercial aircraft are certainly expected to drop.

"It looks like there are more innocent victims of the terrorist bombing," said Charles Bofferding, executive director of SPEEA, Boeing's white collar engineering union.

But Bofferding said he was still holding out hope that the industry would recover somewhat and the actual layoffs would not be as drastic as indicated.

"I believe this has got to be a worst-case scenario," he said.

Mark Blondin, president of the Aerospace Machinists Industrial District Lodge 751, which represents many factory workers, called on Americans to help the economy by getting back on airplanes.

"Air travel is a way of life in this country, and citizens need to continue flying," he said in a statement. "It has probably never been safer to fly in the U.S."

Locke planned to meet with aerospace union leaders Wednesday to offer any assistance the state could provide to workers, said Locke's press secretary, Dana Middleton

While workers at Boeing's plant in Renton said they had not heard about the layoffs, many said they expected them.

"I wasn't shocked or anything. It's kind of like the next step. This business is cyclical as it is, and we're on a downturn now," said engineer Joanne Rennie.

The layoffs would be among the worst in the aerospace giant's history.

About 30,000 Boeing workers lost their jobs when World War II ended in 1945. In 1971, a recession, high costs on the new 747 jumbo jet and cancellation of the planned supersonic transport caused the "Boeing Depression": the company cut its employment in the Puget Sound area from 80,400 to 37,200 in two years, prompting the famous billboard that read, "Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights."