Families worry about 'ripple effects' of machinists vote




Posted on November 15, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 15 at 7:20 AM

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. -- Nearly 60,000 jobs are tied indirectly to Boeing's 777 project -- that's everyone from baristas to bus drivers. It all adds up to more than $3 billion dollars a year in income. With the machinist union's historic rejection of the company's contract offer of job stability in exchange for pension and health care benefits, many outside the company are worried about the possible ripple effects of that decision across Snohomish County.

"We've all got kids to take care of. We want to see this continue," said Michelle Bowman, an office manager at Toolcraft machine shop in Monroe.

Toolcraft is one of at least five machine shops within just a couple miles of each other that all do considerable work with Boeing. Toolcraft makes small interior plane parts for Boeing contractors and business is good.

Over the past 23 years, Karl Niemela grew his business and his family as Boeing prospered. He started as a one man operation with $5,000 in the bank. Toolcraft now employs 34 people, six of them are Niemela's own family members, including five sons. Forty-percent of the company's business is tied to Boeing. That's up from 25% just three years ago. 

Few outside the company have more invested in Boeing than Niemela when it comes to family.

"As goes Boeing, so goes this company," he said Thursday.  

But there is now talk around town of a "new normal," a reluctant assumption that Boeing, as we now know it, won't be here forever. Niemela's 20-year-old son Dennis grew up his dad's shop.  He hopes one day his kids will do the same. Right now, though, nothing is for certain.

"Maybe I could be gone, too," said the son. "There's always that chance."

While there is much bluster about jobs jetting from Snohomish County, the elder Niemela isn't panicking. He is, however, always preparing for the day Boeing jobs go wheels up and leave him behind.

"I've got a good crew running the day to day business," he said. "It's my job to be on top of what's happening in the world and keep thinking of new ways to bring new work in. I owe it to them"