Boeing, Product Safety, and Financialization (Revisited)

An Interview with Marie Christine Duggan | January 2024 | Online-only

A little over three weeks ago, on Friday, January 5th, an Alaska Air flight had to make an emergency landing when a “door plug”—a section of the plane’s fuselage inserted in place of an unneeded emergency exit—fell off the plane several minutes into the flight. The plane was a Boeing 737 Max. No one was seriously injured, but given the history of safety problems with Boeing planes—including two crashes of the same kind of plane in 2018 and 2019 that killed hundreds of people—the spotlight is back on Boeing and the safety of its planes.

In our July/August cover story, Boeing Highjacked by Shareholders and Execs!: How Boeing workers are battling against perverse corporate incentives, and what their story tells us about our financialized economy, economist Marie Christine Duggan explained how Boeing’s shift from investing its free cash in capital equipment, which helped its engineers make better and safer planes, to using it on dividends and buybacks to boost its stock price, compromised product quality and safety. We revisited the topic of the corrosive effects of stock buybacks in the aviation industry in our May/June 2023 cover story by labor studies professor Ericka Wills, Stop Stock Buybacks!: Aviation unions push for restrictions on stock buybacks.

Since the January 5th incident, Marie’s piece is getting some well-deserved attention, largely because of the excellent piece at The Lever by Lucy Dean Stockton, Helen Santoro, and Freddy Brewster, Profits and Payouts Over Passenger Safety (republished at Jacobin under the title Boeing’s Profit Seeking Puts Passengers in Danger). So D&S co-editor Chris Sturr interviewed Marie on January 20th to revisit her 2021 piece in light of the latest spotlight on Boeing. Here is the interview in full.

is a professor of business management at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., and has a PhD in economics from the New School University.

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