With an entire line of its planes grounded following several, likely preventable air disasters that cost hundreds of passengers their lives, Boeing has decided to kick itself while it’s down by engaging in what three ex-workers are calling retaliatory firings.
Last May, a group of Boeing workers at a South Carolina facility successfully voted in favour of unionising with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers — a move the company called “the death knell for manufacturing facilities like Boeing South Carolina” and quickly moved to challenge on the basis of its legality.
While Boeing takes its gripe to the National Labor Relations Board, the unit remains in limbo, much like Boeing’s own fleet of grounded 737 MAX aircraft.
Now, according to a report by The Guardian, three members of that same facility have been fired for what the company alleges was a failure to report a bird strike (the term used for when an object, usually a bird or other animal, collides with a plane).
Richard Mester, one of the fired workers, had recently been elected as a union steward. Another worker alleged that following the unionisation vote, workloads have increased for union supporters.
(Ironically, Boeing was revealed this week to have also fallen even shorter than previously reported where safety failings in the 737 MAX were concerned, when The Wall Street Journal reported that crucial details of the plane’s functionality were unknown to its own test pilots.)
General council for IAM, Bill Haller, contended that the purpose of the firings is to frighten workers who voted in favour of the union by revealing the precariousness of their positions. “They’re not being subtle about it,” he told The Guardian.
Boeing did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Naturally, Boeing strongly disagreed with these insinuations, claiming it “follows a robust process to ensure termination decisions are fully evaluated and consistent with long-standing, visible and objective safety, compliance and conduct policies”. It added that there “has been no retaliation against any individual based on that person’s feelings about a union”.
One can’t help but wonder if Boeing’s biggest problem at the moment is something other than one hundred-some-odd folks in a company of 153,000 that recently lost the public confidence of every major airline.