BOEING HIJACKED BY SHAREHOLDERS AND EXECS!: How Boeing workers are battling against perverse corporate incentives, 
and what their story tells us about 
our financialized economy.

By Marie Christine Duggan | July/August 2021

This article is from Dollars & Sense: Real World Economics, available at

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“It felt as if Boeing had been hijacked by corporate thugs,” Kevin Sanders, a 30-year employee of the company, told Al Jazeera reporter Will Jordan in a documentary that aired in 2014. Sanders was not alone. For the last 20 years, Boeing employees have fought a bitter, losing battle to defend the technological integrity of the planes they build. The many employees who have put their jobs on the line include quality inspectors Gerald Eastman (in 2002) and John Woods (in 2010), and Curtis Ewbank, a specialist in flight-deck systems (in 2020). Yet the company management has repeatedly failed to invest in innovation and employees, instead siphoning cash from manufacturing in order to make the company’s stock price rise. Two decades of executives taking money out of manufacturing has had the predictable and tragic consequence of undermining the quality of Boeing planes, despite the long hours put in by its workforce. Hundreds of passengers died in crashes in 2018 and 2019. Then, on February 22, 2021, the engine of a Boeing 777 flying from Denver to Honolulu disintegrated in midair. While there weren’t any fatalities, the FAA and Japan’s civil aviation bureau grounded over a hundred 777s worldwide.

Boeing has no competitor in the United States and only one major competitor abroad. This level of monopoly makes it possible for Boeing executives to forego making better, safer planes and instead put money into manipulating its share price. In 2020, after nearly 800 orders were cancelled, Boeing simply slashed prices on its 737 Max in order to sell them to discount airline Ryanair. The failure of Boeing management to fund innovation and quality control has had repercussions for the tens of thousands of workers at Boeing. The company’s supply chain even reaches into my town in rural New Hampshire, where a firm that supplies parts to commercial airplanes trains high school students as machinists and pays employees to get computer science degrees. One of the reasons Boeing is “too big to fail” is that those independent, well-managed suppliers hold up what is left of the social fabric in a multitude of small towns across the country.

Figure 1. Labor Productivity in U.S. Manufacturing, Percentage Change from One Year Ago (Five-Year Moving Average)

The mismanagement of Boeing—and the struggle of its employees to stem the decline—is not simply the story of one company gone terribly wrong. It is the story of incentives for all publicly held corporations in the United States gone horribly wrong. And it is also the story of many in lower levels of the hierarchy inside the firm putting their jobs on the line in a struggle to retain a focus on quality. These corporations with a ticker symbol are getting signals from the particular market economy in which we live to siphon profits away from new equipment and away from the experienced workforce—which means away from innovation. The result across the economy as a whole is a decline in U.S. productivity and innovation. Figure 1 shows the growth rate of U.S. manufacturing productivity between one year and the next—or in this case, the rate of decline, since output per hour of U.S. manufacturing actually dropped into negative territory from 2015 to 2019, meaning U.S. manufacturing workers produced less per hour in 2019 than they did in 2015. Productivity depends largely on the quality of equipment that workers are given to work with, as well as on the level of worker education and experience. The graph shows the five-year moving average, a way to smooth out annual ups and downs and see the general direction in which we are headed—which is down. Sure, our small start-ups are innovative—but large, publicly-held corporations dominate our industrial base, and they have the incentive to stop upgrading production in order to free up funds to prop up share price. In this “new normal,” management undermines the skills and dedication of the workforce while maximizing insiders’ incomes (even when the firm is losing money) and making less innovative—and in this case deadly—products.

What Happened to Capital Accumulation?

Most Americans believe that U.S. manufacturing is in decline because wages are lower in China or because robots are taking over. Yet China does not manufacture commercial jets, and if robots were taking over, then U.S. manufacturing productivity would be rising. Boeing’s management chose to remove design and production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from the United States to high-wage nations such as Italy (fuselages), Japan (wings), and Korea (raked wing tips and flap supports) as early as 2005. Why did executives at Boeing outsource crucial technological innovation and manufacturing? Since innovation is expensive, Boeing executives wanted to make Italian, Japanese, and Korean firms pay for it. Executives at U.S. headquarters would thereby free up funds to make stock price rise. Upper management cares about stock price because, since 1998, executive pay has included stock options—the right to purchase shares at a set price. If they can purchase the shares at, say, $50, and then make the share price rise to, say, $80, then executives can purchase quite a few shares at the lower price, and sell them the next day at the higher price, thereby transforming themselves personally into millionaires (as opposed to enriching the company). Such compensation gives them the incentive to loot the firm. The Boeing CEO from 2005 to 2015 who oversaw development of the 737 Max was Jim McNerney, and according to economists Bill Lazonick and Matt Hopkins, he earned no less than $239 million by the time he retired. Dennis Muilenburg, who was CEO at the time of the plane crashes, received $72 million in 2018–2019, before he resigned under pressure. Muilenburg collected an additional $81 million in stock-based pay on his way out the door. Although current CEO David Calhoun technically was paid “only” $559,000 in 2020, he stands to earn stock options with an expected value of $20 million dollars and a $7 million reward for returning the 737 Max to service.

Figure 2: Free Cash from Operations vs. 
Free Cash Spent on New Capital (Both as a % of Total)

The process of taking money out of the company is evident in Figure 2 and Figure 3. “Free cash” is the term for the resources a company has available to spend after it has covered operations costs and the costs of maintaining existing equipment. The green bars in Figure 2 show the percentage of “free cash” that Boeing obtained from operations (i.e., selling planes created by the workers in the production process), which typically provided 40% to 80% of the cash Boeing was free to spend annually. (Boeing obtained the remaining percentage of “free cash” largely from new loans—like a lot of American households, Boeing borrows every year, though at a lower rate of interest than the typical consumer.)

In many years up until 2018, the corporation obtained the bulk of its “free cash” flow from operations, yet the falling blue line in Figure 2 indicates that Boeing only puts between 10% and 20% of its cash back into new equipment for production operations—known as “capital expenditures.” With roughly 60% coming from operations, and only 15% going back into operations, Boeing’s cash flow statements reveal a slow erosion of manufacturing capacity, as the company spends less and less on capital equipment of any kind. If this is how the U.S. capitalist class accumulates capital, then it’s no wonder capitalism in the United States isn’t doing well.

Figure 3. Shareholders vs. Production: 
How Boeing Spends Free Cash Flow

So, how does Boeing actually spend its “free cash”? The yellow bars in Figure 3 show the combined spending on dividends to shareholders and stock buybacks. Both types of spending wind up in shareholders’ pockets, and both raise share price. In 2017, the year before the first deadly plane crash, Boeing’s spending on dividends and stock buybacks was 66% of total spending, while only 9% of Boeing’s cash went into new equipment to manufacture planes. In other words, payouts to shareholders were seven times larger than spending on new equipment for manufacturing. This is a shocking reversal from how Boeing spent its cash in 1990, when 76% of total spending went to new equipment for production, and only 23% went to shareholders. The results of more than a decade of such mismanagement of the corporation’s resources were tragic, to such an extent that hundreds of people lost their lives. The result was also, sadly, predictable, because spending cash on shareholders instead of new equipment and the workforce inevitably leads to a shoddier product. (Not shown in Figure 3 is what Boeing spends on debt service and acquisitions; since the firm is no longer innovative, it either buys out competitors or acquires start-ups that have innovated.)

A Share Price Impervious to Disaster

The dramatic increase in spending on dividends and stock buybacks in 2014 (see Figure 3) was perhaps designed to compensate for the terrible news in 2013 that the lithium-ion batteries in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner had exploded and burst into flames on a runway in Boston, and mid-air in Japan. These disasters occurred on brand-new planes. Some electrical engineers argue that Boeing never fixed the problem—if an individual cell inside the battery overheats, the flammable electrolytes around it catch fire, and the battery may start to emit smoke. Because of the oxidizers in the electrolytes, fire suppressant won’t work on putting out the fire. After the Boeing 787 incidents in 2013, Airbus switched from lithium-ion to nickel-cadmium batteries for its A350 plane, a rival to the 787. Boeing instead added insulation to the box containing the lithium-ion batteries, and built a vent so that when (not if, but when) the batteries explode, the smoke will not spread to the rest of the plane, but will rather flow outside.

Awkward workarounds like this one for potentially fatal aspects of plane design became the new normal at Boeing. The GE LEAP engine is state-of-the art and energy-efficient. For that reason, Boeing wanted to put two of them in each 737 Max, which debuted in 2017. But the 737 was designed in the 1960s, and there is not enough space between the wing and the ground to put the GE LEAP engine, which is larger than anybody in the 1960s ever imagined a plane engine would be. One workaround is that the housing for the rotary fan of the engine is not itself a cylinder—the side on the bottom is square, which gave Boeing another inch of room between the plane and the ground. Even so, the placement of the engines tends to force the plane’s nose up (called a “stall”) which could make it fall from the sky. So Boeing added a hidden computer system that would push the nose of the plane down, counteracting the natural tendency of the plane with such a heavy engine under its wings. That workaround proved fatal on October 19, 2018, when a faulty sensor triggered the computer to push Lion Air Flight 610 into a nosedive despite the pilots’ desperate efforts to regain manual control. Figure 4 shows that Boeing’s share price went down slightly after the crash, only to rally and head for the stratosphere in the months afterwards. Then on March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed for exactly the same reason: A faulty sensor on the brand-new Boeing plane triggered the computer to put the plane into a nosedive from which the pilots could not wrest manual control. Hundreds of people died in both crashes. Many aid workers were on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, including Ralph Nader’s grandniece.

What is surprising is that Boeing’s share price increased eightfold between the time its faulty plane design first hit the evening news in 2013 with battery fires on runways, through the computer seizing the controls and forcing a plane to crash in Indonesia in 2018. Even the crash of the second plane in March 2019 barely dented the company’s share price. One reason Boeing’s share price stayed high was the fact that U.S. interest rates have been rock bottom since 2008. All share prices rise in a low-interest rate environment. Furthermore, Boeing increased its stock buybacks every year between 2013 and 2018, from $2 billion per year to $9 billion per year. What’s more, after the first 737 Max crash, Boeing increased its dividend by 20%. Figure 3 indicates the increased stock buybacks and increased dividends, both of which inflate share price.

Figure 4. Boeing Share Price, 2011 to 2021

Indeed, only the Covid-19 disruption of travel actually caused a serious decline in the share price of Boeing planes (see Figure 4), from which it has since recovered. Compare that to a famous story in aviation history: After World War II, the British aviation company de Havilland built the first passenger plane, the Comet. Three Comets blew up in midair, one after the other. It turned out that fuselage engineering appropriate for fighter jets during World War II would not hold up to the years of repetitive use that a passenger plane had to endure. De Havilland’s reputation was ruined, and plane innovation passed from Britain to the United States.

Boeing Corrupts Government

Boeing executives’ efforts to make the share price impervious to bad news relied on cultivating government complicity and suppressing workers’ voices. To see this clearly, we have to go all the way back to the beginning of the 2000s. That’s because there is at least a 10-year lag between the time when a new plane is conceived and when the finished product is delivered to the customer. Since the Boeing 737 Max first crashed in 2018, we need to travel back 10 years, to 2008, to understand why the plane was not redesigned from the ground up to accommodate the larger LEAP engines. We would find in 2008 that Boeing’s management was in conflict with its own machinists after a 90-day strike. Since the 787 Dreamliner’s batteries first caught fire on runways in 2013, we would need to go back to 2003 to see why the plane was developed with flawed lithium-ion batteries. We would find in 2003 that the Seattle Times had just started publishing a multi-year series of articles on Boeing, detailing how passenger safety was becoming compromised in development, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not call them on it. It is unsurprising that the FAA did nothing. A revolving door between the private sector and regulatory agencies provides an incentive for regulators to please private companies. For example, from 1989 to 2013, Ali Bahrami was head of the FAA, after which he moved on to a more lucrative career as a Boeing lobbyist (from 2013 to 2017), before returning to the FAA in 2017.

By 2003, Boeing was not competing for defense contracts by means of the quality of its planes. Instead, Boeing was convicted of bribing the Air Force in order to obtain a contract for planes to refuel tanker aircraft in midair. In particular, Boeing CFO Michael Sears offered Air Force acquisitions officer Darleen Druyun a job at Boeing with a fat salary. It turned out that this was not the first time Boeing had relied on Druyun to tip the scales in its favor. However, this time Boeing executives were caught in the act. Sears went to prison for four months for offering a job to Druyun while she was employed by the Air Force to negotiate a multibillion-dollar contract with Boeing. Druyun herself got nine months and CEO Philip J. Condit resigned. However, the culture at Boeing of cheating to get ahead may not really have changed: In 2005, the new CEO, Harry Stonecipher, was pushed out for promoting his lover to a senior management position. These two scandals suggest that in the 2003 to 2005 period, Boeing did not see the quality of its planes as the source of the company’s success.

Boeing Workforce Fights Back

While Boeing executives have focused on creating a high share price impervious to bad news, workers at all levels have been pushing for product quality and passenger safety. To see this clearly, we have to go all the way back to 2002, when quality-control inspector Gerald Eastman discovered fraud in quality control. When neither Boeing nor the FAA acted, Eastman passed internal Boeing documents to Seattle Times reporter Dominic Gates, kicking off the series of investigative articles that the paper began publishing in 2003. In 2008, Boeing fired Eastman, who struggled to convince investigators that he was acting in the public interest. The police asked him why, if quality control at Boeing was so lax, planes weren’t falling out of the sky. Boeing worked closely with state prosecutors to convict him, hoping to sentence him to four-and-a-half years in prison. However, no conviction emerged because one juror viewed Eastman as a hero, and a total of two jurors refused to convict, resulting in a hung jury. Boeing settled with Eastman on lesser charges.

In 2008, 25,000 machinists in the heart of Boeing’s production process at four plants around Puget Sound in Washington State, plus 2,250 more in Oregon and Kansas, went on strike for 90 days (see Josh Eidelson, “Conflicting Dreams: The strikes that made Boeing a national flashpoint,” D&S, September/October 2011). Some striking machinists came from families who had worked at Boeing for three generations. They were building the 787 Dreamliner, and protested not only health care cost increases, but also the company’s outsourcing of key parts of production, such as the fuselage and wings, to other high-wage countries. Shipping these large parts into Washington State from around the globe for final assembly had already proved to be a cumbersome, delay-inducing process. The machinists’ union strike put another significant dent into Boeing’s profits. As the world economy plunged into recession, Boeing’s share price tumbled extra hard. Boeing had been making the 787 Dreamliner in Everett, Wash. CEO McNerney declared war on Boeing’s union machinists by deciding to open a second, non-union plant to produce the Dreamliner in North Charleston, S.C.

Shannon Ryker pull-quote

Screenshot from “Union Democracy, Tech & Concession Bargaining,” Labor Video, April 8, 2014 (via YouTube).

In 2011 the South Carolina plant opened, which gave Boeing leverage to cut into the standard of living of its Washington State machinists. In 2013, Boeing eliminated the defined-benefit pension plan and shifted considerable health care costs onto workers in Washington State. The union voted to accept that contract, but it was a bitter, split vote. Machinist Shannon Ryker told Will Jordan, a reporter with Al Jazeera, “For [CEO] Jim McNerney to be earning a pension at approximately a quarter of a million dollars a month, and to think that it is ok to take my $2,200-a-month pension is outrageous.”

At least one major customer was aware that building planes with non-union machinists at a brand-new plant would cut into quality. Qatar Airways refused to accept airplanes unless they were produced in Washington State rather than South Carolina. In 2014, Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, aired its devastating documentary, in which a worker wearing a wire documented the lack of discipline inside the South Carolina plant: cocaine and painkillers sold on site; workers with no training as machinists who did not understand that using brute force to get a fastener into an ill-fitting hole could lead to catastrophic troubles at 30,000 feet 100 flights later. Several employees stated that they did not consider the planes they were making to be safe enough for them to personally fly on. The contrast between the quality at the Everett and North Charleston plants suggests that even with the divisions, empowering workers through unions serves to protect the integrity of production.

In 2017, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) tried to organize 3,000 Boeing employees in South Carolina. The effort failed in part because then-Governor Nikki Haley urged workers to reject what she described as a “union power grab,” even appearing in a Boeing radio ad opposing the unionization—for which she was rewarded with a nomination to Boeing’s board in 2019.

Michael Voirin pull-quote

Screenshot via International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 531C, "Making a Change," May 2, 2019, via YouTube).

Even so, in May 2018, a courageous group of 200 flight-line workers—the mechanics that inspect the planes before they’re delivered to customers—voted to join the IAM. In a video produced by the machinists’ union about this fight, technician Michael Voirin explains that while he resented being paid $14 per hour less than his counterparts in Washington State, pay wasn’t his main concern. He worked the second shift, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. At a previous union job, he had been able to spend time with his children, but for the three years he worked at Boeing, mandatory overtime cut into that. He was at work doing mandatory overtime for Boeing on the day his 15-year-old daughter died. As he states in the video from the machinists’ union:

I know the union can’t stop overtime, but I also know there’s processes for the overtime. And that [with] the union, it’s black and white, it’s no more at the last minute telling you on Friday, “Oh you’re all up Saturday and Sunday,” or at 9 o’clock at night saying, “mandatory two hours over...” It’s really affected my life because I’ve lost a lot of family time. I’m getting up to that age where I have a certain number of weekends left and I don’t really want to spend them at work.

As these workers organized for a union, the fact that they lived in a state where it was legal to “fire at will” gave the company the opportunity to eliminate the employees who were pro-union and committed to quality and loyal to each other, such as Joseph Delmarco, a licensed mechanic who did a last post-flight check on a plane before it went out to the customer. In the IAM video, Delmarco states:

Joseph Delmarco pull-quote

Screenshot via International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 531C, "Making a Change," May 2, 2019, via YouTube).

I had been the lead for probably three years or so prior to the incident. ... I was pro-union, but at the same time I was a company guy. I showed up to work, I worked my butt off, I did everything I could do to make us look good as a company, and, you know, I got the best performance reviews you can get from the company from the past two years, accolades with extra bonusses and stuff for staying late, helping them out, doing this, that, and the other. This is the only thing that I can think of that would’ve put myself in a category to get myself into trouble so to speak by them, which was being pro-union, that is the only thing really that I could think of. ... I loved to work on the airplane, I loved the 787, so I was always going above and beyond, and a lot of people knew that of me, so when they saw that I got fired for something so minuscule, everybody was like, “Man, am I next on the chopping block? I could get fired for anything if those guys would fire you.”

A major reason the South Carolina flight-line workers wanted a union was because it would have given them the ability to say “no” to the forced overtime. It turns out that relentless overtime not only put families in South Carolina at risk, but also caused the kind of employee fatigue in Renton, Wash. that made errors inevitable. In the fall of 2018, the Renton, Wash. Boeing factory produced the two 737 Max planes that crashed months later even though they were brand new. Ed Pierson, a Boeing senior manager, testified to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late 2019 as part of an investigation into the October 2018 and May 2019 plane crashes that the plant was under intense pressure to get planes completed. In early 2018, the delayed delivery of critical parts had slowed down the production of new planes, so Boeing promised shareholders to increase the output of planes at the Renton factory from 47 to 57 per month. But the plant did not have enough electricians and mechanics to keep up with this pace. Pierson stated in his testimony:

The planned factory overtime rate more than doubled. ... I knew that employee fatigue from excessive overtime inevitably produces process breakdowns—e.g., workmanship mistakes, missed inspection items, incomplete paperwork, or failure to follow established functional test procedures—all of which add considerable risk to the safety of airplanes.

He jumped over two levels of his chain of command in June 2018 to email the general manager, Scott Campbell, the following, which he read to the committee in 2019:

I fully appreciate the importance of doing our best to meet ... delivery schedules. But there is a much, much higher risk [of] ... inadvertently imbedding [sic] safety hazard(s) into our airplanes. As a retired Naval Officer and former Squadron Commanding Officer, I know how dangerous even the smallest of defects can be to the safety of an airplane. Frankly right now all my internal warning bells are going off.

Pierson testified that he had “recommended that Boeing ‘[s]hut down the production line to allow our team time to regroup so we can safely finish the planes.’” Management ignored his concerns and increased the pressure on workers at the factory to speed up production in fall 2018. The immediate cause of the 737 Max disasters in 2018 and 2019 was that sensors on each plane gave faulty information to the flight deck that the 737 Max was going nose-up, which triggered the hidden software to push the plane nose down, causing them to crash. In a follow-up document which Pierson published in May 2021, he asks why brand-new sensors would fail, and answers by explaining how flight deck electronics are installed:

The proper installation of an airplane’s electrical infrastructure is challenging work necessitating significant attention to detail. Factory workers are frequently required to perform intricate, physically demanding tasks in tight spaces while in awkward physical positions (overhead, bending, reaching, etc.).

Nine weeks of overtime had exhausted the staff. Furthermore, management got rid of the face-to-face meetings where the outgoing shift would inform the incoming shift which tasks were left unfinished. Pierson met personally with Campbell on July 18, 2018:

I ... reiterated my recommendation that Boeing shut down the line to address product and worker-safety risks. In response, Mr. Campbell told me, “We can’t do that. I can’t do that.” I pushed back, explaining that I had seen operations in the military shut down over less substantial safety issues, and those organizations had national security responsibilities. Mr. Campbell responded tersely, “The military isn’t a profit-making organization.”

When Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October, Pierson retired. In every public appearance, he expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families for their loss. It is clear this tragedy hit the plant staff hard.

The Danger of Monopoly and a Financial Market Bubble

Many observers have attributed the decline in Boeing’s production quality to its merger with McDonnell Douglas back in 1997. But it seems likely that the bubble in the stock market between 1997 and 2000 was the real cause of the change. That bubble was facilitated by ultra-low interest rates, similar to the ones we have now. Anytime a bubble emerges in financial markets, that is going to stimulate people to take money out of production and gamble it on bets in the stock market—especially if insiders are permitted to use company profits to rig the outcome of the bets.

The importance of the merger with McDonnell Douglas is that it meant Boeing had monopoly control of airline production in the United States. Other commentators have attributed Boeing’s decline to fierce competition from Airbus, but that logic is faulty. When firms compete for market share, they are forced to produce better-quality products at lower cost—or they lose to the competition. When Airbus produced the extraordinarily fuel-efficient A320Neo, Boeing responded by adding larger, more efficient engines to its existing line of planes without modifying the design of the body. According to Bill Lazonick and Mustafa Erdem Sakinç, it would have cost Boeing $7 billion to redesign the plane from the ground up to accommodate the larger engines, but Boeing thought that was too expensive—which is ironic, since Boeing was spending about $7 billion per year on stock buybacks by 2015. Boeing’s 737 Max did get plenty of orders, but that is because there wasn’t much competition. Even now, Boeing is not planning to design a better plane in the near future. Yet Southwest and United are buying the flawed 737 Max with the too-big engines anyway. With only one other major airplane manufacturer in the world, and no other commercial jet manufacturer in the United States, Boeing has little financial incentive to create a better product, and instead spends massive amounts of money on manipulating political figures to pressure others to purchase its planes. Former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both fought for the brand, and Boeing donated to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. At this time, pressuring U.S. allies to purchase U.S. planes means pressuring them to purchase Boeing planes. And Boeing has lowered its price, too. The low price has resulted in Boeing hemorrhaging profits—the company lost millions in 2019 and billions in 2020 (see Figure 2). But nobody seems to care. Profits are falling, but the share price still rises (see Figure 4).

A share price that is impervious to the declining quality of the new products that the firm introduces is dangerous because it means that U.S. corporate executives will be rewarded even if they spend company profits in a way that destroys product quality. And that is in fact why this story is worth telling. Executives have a clear incentive to siphon cash from the large publicly held corporations they run in order to push up share price because that is how to make their stock options pay off. And they do.

Holding Boeing Accountable

The Puget Sound area has been the heart of Boeing production for so many decades that the community’s level of aerospace machining skills is unparalleled. In a sign that the plane disasters of 2018 and 2019 did not cause Boeing’s management to gain a new respect for the importance of employee dedication and skill, Boeing announced in October 2020 that it would no longer make the 787 Dreamliner in its Everett, Wash. plant, instead shifting all 787 production to the non-union North Charleston, S.C. plant.

In June 2021, after years of pressure from the families that lost loved ones in the two 737 Max crashes of 2018 and 2019, Bahrami finally retired from the FAA due in part to criticisms over safety and his close relationship with Boeing. President Biden would not have to look far to replace FAA leadership, because we know who has had the courage and integrity to speak out: Ed Pierson, the plant manager who spoke out about conditions at the 737 Max plant in Renton, Wash.; or perhaps Curtis Ewbank, a flight deck system specialist who was suspended by Boeing because he wrote to Congress in 2019 stating that Boeing knew there were flaws in the flight control systems of the 737 Max and the 777.

Until 1982 it was not legal for companies to purchase shares of their own stocks, and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) introduced a bill in 2018 that would restore that common sense. Her Reward Work Act also calls for representatives of workers’ unions to sit on company boards. Her bill was reintroduced in 2019, and it is currently stuck in committee. The Biden administration is currently lobbying to pass an infrastructure bill that will provide funds to a range of industries, and aviation companies are lobbying for their share. We learned in 2009 that bailing out banks without conditions was unwise. It would be wise to pass Senator Baldwin’s bill prior to providing U.S. corporate executives with billions. Such a change would free engineers and machinists at U.S. corporations from corporate thuggery so that these new funds will finally be invested in people and production.

holds a Ph.D. in economics and is professor of business management at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

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