The 465 jobs Alcoa is eliminating in Whatcom County pay considerably above average for the area.
Alcoa is laying off 465 workers at its aluminum smelter in Ferndale, Whatcom County, effective Jan. 18, after announcing earlier this month it would idle its smelters there and near Wenatchee. The two moves combined will cost 880 jobs.
The move comes as Alcoa shrinks aluminum output and splits the company in two.
Alcoa employs 583 people total in Ferndale at the smelter and the casthouse, where molten aluminum is cast into ingots and other specific shapes for customers. It will retain more than 100 at the operation, said Alcoa spokeswoman Sofina Mirza-Reid.
The smelter closure is expected to hit Ferndale, and Whatcom County, hard.
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Manufacturing jobs tend to pay more than many others in Whatcom County, where the average wage for all jobs is $41,000 a year, according to Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department. Manufacturing jobs in the county, on average, pay closer to $60,000, Vance-Sherman said.
“There just aren’t that many family-wage jobs out here,” said Glenn Farmer, business representative for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 160, which represents the Alcoa workers in Ferndale. “We’re going to have a lot of people looking for work. And there’s not a lot to keep them in the area.”
Production workers at Alcoa’s Ferndale smelter make about $23 an hour (or $47,840 a year), while maintenance workers make about $26 an hour ($54,080 a year).
But many regularly work overtime, so there are workers making $65,000 to $100,000, with quite a few making $80,000 a year, Farmer said.
Alcoa had said last week it would be laying off 415 employees at its smelter in Malaga, Chelan County, near Wenatchee.
The two smelters had been idle before Alcoa restarted them in 2011.
Alcoa is also closing a smelter in northern New York, a move Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted in a letter to company CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. Cuomo called the closure “shocking” after Alcoa had received millions in state subsidies to preserve jobs.