News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Excellent Boeing team hurt by corporate heads

It's been a long three months for Boeing's Decatur plant and its striking employees, who ratified a revised contract last week. Picketing workers went without paychecks and health insurance, directing their signs at the few people who ventured down Red Hat Road, watching as their managers passed through the picket line.

"We felt alienated," said one worker.

It's not just the strikers who struggled. Their management friends inside the plant hated the schism they felt increasing with every day.

Neither management nor workers did anything wrong to begin the strike. They have worked as a team for years. They have done amazing things as they have joined their respective talents to create rockets that pushed satellites into orbit.

While local employees, both hourly and management, were focusing their efforts on the task at hand, Boeing's corporate officials regularly hindered those efforts.

In 2002, Boeing Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears offered a job to the Air Force's chief acquisitions officer while she was overseeing work on Boeing contracts. The officer, sentenced in 2004, said she favored Boeing on multiple contracts because of Boeing job offers made to her, her daughter and her son-in-law.

Mr. Sears and the officer ended up in jail and Boeing's chief executive officer, Phil Condit, was forced to resign.

In 1997, a soon-to-be subsidiary of Boeing hired an engineer from Lockheed Martin Corp. to work on the Delta IV program. He brought with him tens of thousands of proprietary documents relating to Lockheed's rocket program. Three Boeing employees were indicted, and the Pentagon took away seven Delta contracts and suspended Boeing from bidding on launches for 20 months.

Boeing justified its refusal to increase its workers' compensation by saying the Delta program was not profitable enough and that competition in that segment of its business was too tight to allow for any more labor costs.

What Boeing did not do is explain a major reason the Delta program's profitability has been elusive: Boeing's corporate misconduct.

We hope and expect that frustrations over the strike do not hurt the teamwork that has existed between local employees and management. We also hope Boeing corporate can get its act together so local efforts are not in vain.

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