Toilet paper

I have been hearing the roar of the train for some time, at least a year. All indicators were that Boeing was moving its Customer Services out of the Tukwila office buildings that it had occupied since 1990 (my initial interview with the vice-president of field service happened that year – I can remember that meeting in vivid detail): taking “Customer Services” off the sign on the street corner, painting the interior, new carpet thru-out, refurbishing some of the rest rooms – all those things you do to ‘spruce up’ the joint prior to selling it.

The horn has been audible since the first of the year: other groups (Boeing’s Research and Technology having a “voluntary layoff buyout”), the supposed movement of customer services’ work to SoCal (mgt has been crowing about it, but it hasn’t really happened yet), oft told stories of the remodeling of a building in Seal Beach for an obvious Operations Center.

The light is now visible, with the multiple stories in the local news industry of jobs leaving Puget Sound under the guise of “geographic diversification.” The story in the Boeing News Now that the current Operations Center is definitely moving to Southern California, the latest nail in the coffin. My mgt has characteristically not had the moral courage to say anything to my face, let alone put any of this in writing. “Trial by public opinion” certainly fits; but that’s clearly the way they want it. A second level manager talking about his house hunting on a so-called business trip two weeks ago.

It is time to step off the tracks; this new phase of Boeing – a continuation of the movement started when corporate headquarters moved to Chicago, of all places – will continue w/o me. Forced out after 29 years.

I am nothing if not forewarned. Still, this slap in the face with a cold fish is not met with total joy. My own timetable before volunteering to be put out to pasture had me in the game for another five years, at least – maybe ten. I have been part of customer services, or customer support, since 1986 – I am believer. Not only have I felt that I have contributed, I have the personal thanks of customers who appreciate what I have done for them. A real feel good kind of thing. No adulation of thousands, no recognition from management, no dinners or gold watches; just the personal thanks from people I have reached out and touched. So, I will take that with me; the company does not own it, and the company clearly doesn’t care, anyway.

It is wonderfully ironic that the Old Boeing recruited me out of Purdue University and paid all my expenses to relocate my family and me to Puget Sound back in 1985. Now, the New Boeing is saying that if I want to remain employed after 29 years, I have to quit the job I have here, apply for a job in California and pay my own way to get there – for a smaller paycheck than what I have earned here. I love it that I had more value to the company then, than I do now.

But, as Groucho Marx said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member,” I am quite sure I don’t want to get on that train, I am convinced I don’t want to be a part of the New Boeing. I am trying to look at this premature separation in a positive light.

No longer will I have to “take the ethics challenge” from a company that is famous for its lack of ethics. No longer will I have to apologize for being an employee of a company that takes $9 billion in tax incentives from the state, and then moves thousands of jobs out of state. No longer will I have to try to explain the debacle of the 787, and why Boeing persists with the same business model (calling it now, “geographical diversification”). No longer will I have to suck up to managers whose only purpose in life is sucking up to their managers – one can only wonder if any of the high muckity-mucks have any clothes on at all.

When I joined Boeing in 1985, I could not imagine a more wonderful event in my professional life. Then, Boeing called itself a “family.” Over the years, it stopped calling itself a family and started using “team.” Now, I know what it feels like to be a commodity: toilet paper.

Time to get busy living.

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