And so it begins.

With last-minute talks between Boeing (NYSE:BA) and its machinists' union (the International Association of Machinists, or "IAM") having come to naught, IAM workers picked up their pickets and began striking shortly after midnight Saturday. Three days into the strike, the wisdom of market wags tells us Boeing should have already lost some $300 million in forgone sales, and perhaps $19 million in lost profits.

And counting.

No end in sight
Nor, it appears, is the pain likely to end any time soon. While it may just be puffery, the IAM's website is apparently advising its members to get ready for a long, hard slog, warning members to: "prepare for the long haul. If you need temporary employment, start looking now. If you need to cut back on your budget or move things around a bit, now would be the time to do it."

Sound advice -- and not just for union members. Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE:SPR) this morning withdrew its earnings guidance for the year, unable to count on revenues that will not be forthcoming until Boeing starts building planes again. And while Spirit may be the first, it probably won't be the last. Other aerospace majors that could soon be "feeling Boeing's pain" include:

  • Engine maker General Electric (NYSE:GE)
  • Electronics specialist Honeywell (NYSE:HON)
  • Internal power systems maker United Tech (NYSE:UTX)
  • More basic components parts makers like Precision Castparts (NYSE:PCP) and titanium suppliers such as Titanium Metals (NYSE:TIE) should also be feeling the pain ...

As will dozens of companies more. Indeed, it's hard to over-estimate just how much this strike may ultimately affect the U.S. economy.

Hard to estimate, too
Interestingly, Boeing shareholders seem to be reacting more favorably to the news than are investors in the Boeing suppliers. While each of TiMet, Precision Castparts, Rockwell, and Spirit saw their shares fall on Saturday's (or perhaps today's) news, Boeing shares are actually up for the day (if only just barely).

What is Mr. Market telling us as it bids up Boeing shares: That the strike will be short-lived? That the damage has already been "priced in" to the stock?

To steal a line from Sen. Obama, the answer is: "above my pay grade." One thing's certain, though: The pundits' prediction of a sharp sell-off at Boeing was wrong. The future's never certain, and we have no idea how this will work out.

Don't forget to stay abreast of the other continuing story at Boeing -- its Dreamliner nightmare: