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Boeing Lockouts Aren't What You Think

Labor: Aerospace giant, amid layoffs, closes 12 bathrooms. Workers cite inconvenience.

June 09, 2002|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — It might not be a high-profile point of dispute like job security or pensions, but the Boeing Co. might have a new labor issue on its hands: lavatory lockouts.

Boeing this month closed and padlocked 12 bathrooms at its Everett factory, part of an overall cost-cutting program to eliminate excess services and facilities since the aerospace giant has laid off several thousand people there. About 22,000 people still work at Boeing's Everett operation, mostly in the factory.

But while Boeing officials maintain that the "people-to-potty ratio" has remained constant, roughly 3 toilets per 55 people, employees say it's the distance and the inconvenience of taking a bathroom break in the world's largest building--by volume--that is the issue.

"A lot of times, I work up until the last second, and then I'm running," said worker Connie Hoeppner. "Get out of my way!"

Her office is already coping with fewer employees to do the work. "When it takes longer to go find a restroom to use, it's going to take longer to do your job," she said.

Boeing spokesman Bob Jorgensen said under Boeing's estimates no one is more than 300 feet--a football field--away from a restroom. He said the distance is just about 100 feet farther than they were already walking.

"It's not a hardship," he said Friday. "You always have complaints when there's change."

Plus, he said, there are scores of restrooms throughout the factory, which spans about 100 acres and is so big that workers ride bikes and golf carts to get from one area to another.

Jorgensen did not disclose the dollar savings but said that three maintenance staff workers who were previously doing bathroom duty could now do other maintenance work.

As of late May, Boeing layoffs since last fall totaled 21,300 employees companywide, with most of those layoffs coming in the Puget Sound region.

Boeing's post-Sept. 11 plan seeks to reduce its labor force by 25,000 to 30,000 people by the end of this year to deal with the downturn in the airline industry.

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