About 27,000

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

machinists are on strike Saturday after the company and the International Association of Machinists failed to come to a labor agreement that would have prevented a work stoppage.

The strike halts production at one of the world's two producers of big jet airplanes, which are in high demand despite high fuel prices and a slowing economy. Boeing said it will continue to deliver airplanes but will cease assembly efforts. Regarding the long-delayed Boeing 787, "A protracted strike could put at risk our ability to fly the 787 in the fourth quarter," Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said Friday. A 2005 Boeing strike lasted 28 days.

Boeing is the largest U.S. exporter and the biggest employer in Washington state. Boeing shares opened the trading week Tuesday at $67 and closed Friday at $62.89. No new talks are scheduled.

In balloting Wednesday, 87% of the voters backed a strike, while 80% rejected the new contract offer. The old contract expired at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. At the request of federal mediators and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, the two sides agreed to keep talking, even though many union members wanted to strike immediately.

Negotiators traveled from Seattle to Orlando, Fla., the site of an IAM convention. But talks broke down Friday afternoon. The strike began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Wages, benefits and outsourcing issues continue to separate the two sides.

"Over the past two days, Boeing, the union and the federal mediator worked hard in pursuing good-faith explorations of options that could lead to an agreement. Unfortunately the differences were too great to close," said Scott Carson, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a prepared statement issued Friday.

In a message to union members late Friday, IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski said: "Despite meeting late into the night and throughout the day, continued contract talks with the Boeing Company did not address our issues. If this company wants to talk, they have my number, they can reach me on the picket line."