Hm! Boeing union just ran whistleblower rights training

Staff decibel level is high - and not just from all those jet engines

A union representing Boeing employees held a training session last week on whistleblower protection rights, suggesting the troubled jetmaker's problems may be far from over. 

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), which represents workers at Boeing and Boeing spin-off-slash-supplier Spirit AeroSystems, held a training session for council representatives at both corporations on Friday. 

"The seminar comes after two years of SPEEA unsuccessfully trying to negotiate strong anti-retaliation language with the Boeing Co. in particular," the union said on its website. It said such anti-retaliation measures are needed because SPEEA members continue to report being punished for speaking out about safety concerns. 

"The whistleblower seminar will provide Council Reps the basic tools to be front-line resources to SPEEA members who are considering speaking up about an issue but don't trust their employers' internal systems," the SPEEA added. 

Boeing has faced a number of public whistleblower complaints in recent months after a string of malfunctions, like a door plug that blew out while in flight earlier this year. Two of Boeing's accusers have died - one of an apparent suicide and another of a sudden infection - though others have still come forward. 

In one case, engineer and SPEEA member Sam Salehpour alleged that Boeing 787s were manufactured with fuselage gaps that could threaten the aircraft's structural integrity. Another alleged that Boeing has been experiencing a decades-long quality decline as the culture has shifted to prioritizing speed and profit over safety and quality - a move some have linked to the venerable aircraft manufacturer's merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. 

Brian Knowles, a lawyer who represented both deceased Boeing whistleblowers, said earlier this month that he has at least ten more Boeing employees ready to come forward. Those ten may not be alone if the need for whistleblower training is any indicator. 

Even leaving retaliatory behavior out of the mix for a moment, Boeing employees may simply not have a good idea how to report a problem. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been investigating Boeing's safety culture since the door plug blowout and associated 737 Max 9 grounding, the engineering quality at Boeing is questionable. Not to mention the ongoing government investigations into the 346 deaths resulting from two 737 Max crashes.

Along with a lapse in safety metrics, the FAA said it found that safety reporting at Boeing was also confusing and so inconsistently applied that sometimes managers could end up investigating reports within their own reporting chain. 

In other words, some good whistleblower protection training could be exactly what Boeing employees need to figure out how to get some light shined on the problems they've spotted.

Boeing didn't respond to questions for this story. 

We also reached out to the SPEEA to ask questions about the training and whether it's aware of additional whistleblowers waiting for the right opportunity to go public, but didn't immediately hear back. ®

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