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Locke: Gov’t Must Help Airlines

September 19, 2001

RENTON, Wash. (AP) _ Gov. Gary Locke said Tuesday that news of massive layoffs at Boeing illustrates how quickly the federal government must move to help the airline industry, which is ailing after last week’s terrorist attacks.

``We’re all very distressed by it,″ Locke said. ``The repercussions of last week’s terrorist activities are having far-reaching impacts, first to all the national airlines. They’re laying off people, and they’re not even sure they can take delivery of Boeing airplanes.″

Boeing confirmed Tuesday night that it would cut at least 20,000 jobs in its commercial airlines operations by the end of next year. The operations are centered in the Puget Sound region.

Locke said the state’s first responsibility would be to help laid-off workers obtain unemployment benefits and job retraining.

While workers at Boeing’s plant in Renton said they had not heard about the layoffs, many said they expected them.

``I wasn’t shocked or anything. It’s kind of like the next step. This business is cyclical as it is, and we’re on a downturn now,″ said engineer Joanne Rennie, 46.

``There’s going to be a lot of people without work,″ mechanic Tom Robicheau said.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said the city also had offered to help retrain workers.

``We told them we will be pushing for federal support of the airlines,″ Schell said. ``Seattle’s managed through adversity before. Over a period of time people will resume flying.″

Boeing did not tell the governor how many of the layoffs would be in Washington state. The company also has commercial airlines operations in California and Kansas.

``Seattle is very likely to get its slug of the cuts,″ said U.S. Rep Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

Machinists Union President Mark Blondin urged people to continue flying as a way to sustain the industry.

``We understand this is the kind of devastating event no one could foresee,″ said. ``We expect as the nation recovers, so will the American aerospace and airline industries. We will work diligently with this company to see that it happens.″

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