RENTON, Wash. — In Renton, the only city where the Boeing 737 MAX is assembled, concerns have been raised about what the impacts of a possible production shutdown could mean for the local economy.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Wednesday the company might have to consider temporarily halting MAX production if it cannot get approval for the plane to reenter commercial service in the coming months.
“The impact to employment would be felt throughout this community. We’d feel it in our restaurants and we’d feel it in our other jobs, our retail,” said Randy Corman, a longtime Renton City Council member who spent 33 years working for Boeing.
“I think Boeing is really being transparent and they’re just out there saying we are looking at all options,” said Corman, who is running for mayor.
He said it's important to keep in mind that a temporary shutdown is just one of several possible outcomes.
Boeing is still the backbone of the local workforce, but Renton’s economy is less dependent on the company than it once was, according to Corman.
A city of Renton spokesperson declined to comment on Boeing’s announcement, Wednesday.
A Boeing employee said there is anxiety among newer workers about potential job cuts. They are worried junior employees would be laid off if the company had to cut back.
Employees on the assembly line are trying to focus on the job in front of them, the worker said, and trying not to worry about factors beyond their control.
The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the union representing Boeing engineers, technical workers and pilots, said it was unclear what a possible shutdown would mean for its workforce.
“Our hope is that they won’t push the cost of the Max being idled on the workers through layoffs,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director.
A third of Renton’s workforce is tied to Boeing or closely related to the company’s supply chain, according to Corman. 12,000 people work on the 737 in some capacity, a Boeing spokesperson said.
Goforth said Boeing's announcement was the first official mention of a shutdown, and it raised questions: Would workers be reassigned to other jobs? How many employees would a shutdown impact?
“That’s what needs clarification,” Goforth said.