WICHITA, Kan. – While expressing concern for younger workers, veteran employees at Boeing's Wichita plan are taking the announcement of up to 5,000 layoffs in stride.
In Wichita, about 2,200 people who will lose their jobs at the aircraft manufacturing plant by the end of this year. Those layoffs will be followed by 3,000 more next year, the company announced Friday.
The announcement was expected after Boeing said last week that it would reduce its national commercial aircraft workforce by up to 30 percent. But the numbers in Wichita were bigger than many expected.
"I'm trying to take it in stride. We won't know how bad it will be until it happens," Dennis Miller said Friday as he waited to enter the plant. "It's a lot more people than they said. That's a little upsetting."
Linda Bryant, who has worked at Boeing for 20 years, feels confident that seniority will protect her job.
"For now, that is," she said. "We're going to be going through the next round of this next year."
The mood in the plant Friday was not as depressed as might be expected.
"Most people understand where this is coming from," said Veryl "Fuzzy" Crittenden, who was working Thursday night word on the numbers of job cuts began to circulate.
Although the layoffs were caused in part by terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., signs of the Boeing workers patriotism and support for disaster relief are everywhere in the plant.
"This isn't like a downsizing layoff," Crittenden said. "People knew a downturn was coming, and we were expecting layoffs. We thought it would be next year; the attacks just escalated it. But everybody saw it happen. They understand where this is coming from, and they're dealing with it."
At union hall, union leaders complained because Boeing executives have not offered to give up their bonuses. And they say some modification work is being sent to a non-union facility in Texas.
By Friday afternoon, the reality of the layoff numbers was sinking in.
"I'm going on my 24th year out here, and I'm not worried about my job," said Kelly VanDegrift, who drives heavy equipment in the plant.
"But I work with a lot of very talented young men and women who are going to get laid off, and I really feel sorry for them. It's hard on the managers and hard on the union reps who have to carry the word. You just hate to see those people go."
VanDegrift said he feels confident that business will pick up again and that people will eventually be called back to their jobs. In the meantime, he said, they'll find a way to survive.
"I've been through it, not at Boeing but at other companies," VanDegrift said. "You do what you have to do to get by, even if it means working two jobs until you get called back."