Bergie's Bar & Grill opened early Thursday morning to serve breakfast to Boeing Machinists before they voted. By that night, general...
Bergie’s Bar & Grill opened early Thursday morning to serve breakfast to Boeing Machinists before they voted. By that night, general manager Kelli Gaidjiergis was sure from listening to customers that there would be a strike, and she supports them.
“They’re on strike, so we’re on strike too,” she said as she served up another chilled draft beer yesterday afternoon at Bergie’s, a favorite hangout for workers at Boeing’s plant in Renton.
As manager of a business that depends on Boeing workers for its income, she wonders what the strike will mean for her. And, like others watching the strike from the sidelines, Gaidjiergis also wonders if the strikers know what they are getting themselves into.
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“My only comment to them was, ‘You have to be realistic about the other jobs that are out there,’ ” she said, pointing out that many employers require workers to pay a greater share of medical-insurance costs than Boeing does. “I think these guys don’t understand that.”
The International Association of Machinists’ 18,300 members in the Puget Sound region, Portland and Wichita, Kan., voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to strike.
Many Machinists were elated that the 86 percent strike vote went far beyond the needed two-thirds margin — unlike the contract vote in 2002, when they narrowly fell short of striking.
Union leader Mark Blondin told members after the vote that negotiators for the Machinists and Boeing had been “very far apart” on the union’s major issues — pensions, medical benefits and job security. He said the union’s strike fund is “well-prepared, whether it’s one day or 1,000 days.”
Will strike pay off?
Tim Osborn, a Renton resident who was laid off in May from his job as a deli manager for QFC, said he doesn’t know if the strike will pay off.
“I’m afraid because of the economy that they’re going to get really hurt,” he said. “They have a good reason to go on strike, but I’m afraid it’s not going to work for them.”
Osborn cited problems with the economy in general, and the beleaguered U.S. airline industry specifically, as reasons the Machinists might not get concessions from Boeing, even with the strike.
Robert Masters, a retiree from Bellevue, thinks the Machinists are “being irrational, because the economy is not doing that well.”
He thinks the demands of unionized workers could push Boeing to outsource more jobs.
“They’re going to demand more, more, more,” Masters said of the workers. “And I don’t know what the limits of the Boeing Company are to pay more and more.”
“Stay out of the politics”
Some local business owners and managers chose to keep their thoughts about the strike to themselves yesterday, partly because their customers have different opinions about it.
“I stay out of the politics as much as I can,” said Jen Ebi, a bartender at the Dog & Pony Alehouse & Grill near the Renton plant.
But the strike is already affecting some businesses that depend on the patronage of Boeing workers.
Fridays are typically among the busiest days at Happy Tummy Grill in Everett because that’s payday at Boeing, owner Sun Ho said. But yesterday afternoon there were only four patrons and dozens of empty tables in the restaurant, while piles of cooked teriyaki chicken sat in the back, uneaten.
“I’m very worried about it,” Ho said. She supports the strikers, but hopes they go back to work soon. “A one-week, two-week strike would be OK. Longer would be scary.”
Tarsemjit Singh, who manages a 7-Eleven near the Everett plant, noticed an immediate drop-off in customers.
He saw fewer graveyard-shift employees coming in for coffee after the strike was announced Thursday night. Singh said he supports the strikers, but that fewer people commuting to work is going to be a hardship on him.
“If we lose customers, we can’t do anything,” Singh said. “It’s hard in this area for everybody. It’s very quiet, it’s very hard.”
Looking around his empty grocery near the Renton factory yesterday afternoon, Kwang Lee said he suddenly has about half his usual number of customers.
He bought Park Avenue Market & Deli three months ago.
“It’s hard. I want the strike to finish,” he said.
Gaidjiergis said business at Bergie’s Bar & Grill should stay brisk for a one- or two-week strike, but after that, “people will buckle down.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Brian Alexander contributed to this article.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org