Boeing announced Monday that it is temporarily shutting down its manufacturing facilities in the Seattle area for two weeks in response to a growing number of coronavirus cases among its workforce.
The company’s move to suspend operations in its Puget Sound-area factories is in line with much of the rest of the state, which is in a state of emergency to slow the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown began today, March 24.
Boeing made the call to halt production one day after news broke that one of it Washington employees died from the coronavirus. The company reported 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus among its workers. All but five of the company’s workers with coronavirus are in Washington state.
“These actions are being taken to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and the local community, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with the requirements of its customers,” Boeing said in a statement.
Employees at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, facilities have reached out to Seattle’s KIRO Radio in the past week, “citing concerns about working in close quarters that are not frequently cleaned, and not deep cleaned between shifts,” according to MyNorthwest.
737 Max crisis
Boeing, the United States’ largest exporter, has taken a financial beating by the coronavirus outbreak on top of massive challenges it was already facing following the continued worldwide grounding of its 737 Max airplanes.
The grounding followed the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in Ethiopia, which together killed 346 people. The crashes not only exposed serious design flaws within the 737 Max – Boeing’s bestselling aircraft – they uncovered layers of wrongdoing and corruption within the company and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Boeing CEO David Calhoun told CNBC that he still expects the 737 Max will get FAA approval and return to service in early summer of this year. It wasn’t the first time the company expressed optimism about the controversial aircraft. Boeing has continually pushed back the 737 Max’s return as it seeks federal certification for the software changes it designed to overcome the aircraft’s flawed design.
Boeing is currently one of the several corporations standing in line for a share of what could be a $2 trillion stimulus package to prop up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. For years, Boeing has spent much of its profits on paying dividends for its shareholders or buybacks of its stock. The strategy served only to boost the company’s stock value and enrich Boeing’s top executives and Wall Street investors.
Now that the company’s stock has plummeted in value, it finds it may not have enough cash on hand to ride out the crisis. As of Tuesday, Boeing was among the corporations seeking a no-strings government bailout, meaning it could spend billions in taxpayer dollars in essentially any way it sees fit, with little or no government oversight.
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.