Boeing CEO Admits It's Retaliated Against Whistleblowers


Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has acknowledged that the company has retaliated against whistleblowers who raised safety concerns, CNN reports, amid public furor over the safety of its aircraft.

In a senate hearing on Tuesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked Calhoun how many employees Boeing had disciplined or fired for "retaliation against whistleblowers" — and Calhoun's answer was evasive yet revealing.

"I don't have that number on the tip of my tongue, but I know it," the outgoing Boeing chief said, who was suspiciously forgetful when asked for the specifics on a number of occasions. "I know it happens."

It's a stunning admission to make — and undoubtedly will do little to quell the speculation over the death of two publicly outspoken whistleblowers who had testified against the aerospace company this year.

Mr. Outreach

Boeing has been under the spotlight since a door plug blew off a Boeing 737 Max 9 airliner in January, a fiasco which also reopened old wounds surrounding the crashes of two Max jets five years ago that killed nearly 350 passengers.

But Calhoun doesn't consider his admission to be one of guilt. He denied that the safety issue is systemic, dismissing criticism that Boeing harbors a "broken" work culture that persecutes whistleblowers and suppresses internal criticism.

It's quite the opposite, according to Calhoun. Extolling himself, he claimed that he actually encourages concerned employees to speak up.

"I often cite and reward the people who bring issues forward, even if they have huge consequences on our company and our production," Calhoun said, per CNN. "We work hard to reach out to our people."

Not hard enough, apparently; Calhoun also admitted that he hasn't spoken to a single one of the company's whistleblowers, or even their families — which would seem a dismal failure of outreach. Some whistleblowers, including John Barnett, who was found dead by suicide this year, said they were relentlessly harassed by Boeing management.

Crime and Punishment

The case against Boeing is damning, and it's Calhoun's word against at least a score of others.

Blumenthal, who chairs the senate's investigations subcommittee, said that his staff has spoken to more than two dozen Boeing whistleblowers, some of whom shared testimony at the hearing for the first time.

"This is a culture that continues to prioritize profits, push limits, and disregard its workers," Blumenthal said in his opening remarks, per CNN.  "A culture where those who speak up are silenced and sidelined while blame is pushed down to the factory floor."

With all that in mind, it's quite convenient that Calhoun can't recall just how many supposed bad apples retaliated against Boeing whistleblowers. Revealing the scope of that problem, after all, might give the game away.

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