Some of us have been around this town long enough to remember the economic downturn of the early 1970s, when a billboard went up asking the last person leaving Seattle to turn off the lights. Much of the local economic pain back then came from job losses at the region’s biggest employer, Boeing.
If Seattle is still a company town, that company is Amazon, followed up by Microsoft; it is no longer Boeing. Still, it is not happy news that 15% of jobs in Boeing’s commercial jet manufacturing operation are soon to be cut. The implosion of the airline industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is the primary cause, but Boeing was not doing so well even before everyone started sheltering in place and avoiding the airport.
Boeing’s troubles began with two deadly crashes of its newest, potentially most lucrative airplane, the 737 MAX. The Seattle Times just won the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for a year-long series of stories detailing how a flawed design, profits-driven corporate management and lax federal regulation contributed to the accidents.
The 737 MAX has been grounded while a redesign has been underway, and there seemed to be hope that the jet would be back on the market and in the sky in the near future. Now, though, the economic skies look cloudy, cold and unwelcoming for Boeing, and they are especially gloomy for the workers who are about to lose their jobs.
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