Dennis Mullenberg
Dennis Muilenberg

Where was the PR pushback?... Boeing has agreed to pay $200M to settle charges that it and former CEO Dennis Muilenburg made materially misleading public statements about its 737 Max following crashes in 2018 and 2019.

A press release is at the heart of the matter.

According to the SEC, Boeing’s PR team huddled with engineers and lawyers on November 15, 2018 to draft a press release following the crash in Indonesia.

The initial draft called the 737 Max either “a safe airplane" or that it “continued to be safe to fly.” Certain versions of the release noted that Boeing engineers were working with the FAA to expedite and certify a new flight control software for the plane.

At that time, Boeing faced a wave of negative media coverage over allegations that it withheld information from pilots, airlines, regulators and the public about the flight control system. Its stock was tanking.

On Nov. 20, Muilenburg complained in an email that “we are spending too much time playing defense. We need to start playing some offense.”

Muilenburg on Nov. 21 reviewed the press release and recommended removing the reference to the flight control system.

The final press release made no mention of the flight control system and stated that Boeing’s customers and passengers “have assurances that the 737 Max is as safe as any airline that ever flown the skies.”

The CEO approved the release on Nov. 27 and emailed: “looks great….factual and sticks to the report while making our key reports. Good to go.”

The SEC order says Boeing and Muilenburg knew there was an ongoing safety issue with the flight control system but assured the public that the plane was safe.

Chairman Gary Gensler said that it’s especially important that public companies and their executives provide full, fair and truthful disclosures to the markets in times of trouble.

“The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this basic obligation,” he said.

Muilenburg agreed to pay $1M for his role in the cover-up but what about the PR staffers, engineers and lawyers who decided to drop the reference to the flight control system?

Shouldn’t they be held accountable?

The union label is looking up… Anybody watching television during the late 70s and early 80s couldn’t dodge the “Look for the Union Label” ad from the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.

Though the spot, especially its catchy jingle, earned kudos from creatives in adland, it failed to halt the demise of the largely domestic textile industry that was wiped out by an onslaught of cheap imports.

While those ladies were urging shoppers to buy American goods, support for unions hovered around the 50 percent mark.

Guess what? More than seven-in-ten (71 percent) of Americans approve of labor today, according to a Gallup poll released Aug. 30. That’s the highest level recorded since 1965.

The pandemic is among the reasons that support for unions is on the rise as the “worker shortage” emboldened employees to push for better wages and benefits.

Though organizing drives at Amazon and Starbucks got a lot of media attention, they resulted in a tiny number of employees actually getting union cards.

The bigger impact of those high-profile organizing drives: the National Labor Relations Board reported a 57 percent surge in the number of “under the radar” union elections during 2021.

Members of the garment union would have been proud of organized labor’s PR comeback.

They also would be wary as the upcoming recession could wipe out any leverage that workers have over their employers.

What a difference a new administration makes… The US and Uruguay on Sept. 22 became the 46th and 47th members of the International Partnership for Information and Democracy.

The US joined, according to a “signing statement” released by the State Dept., because of the IPID’s emphasis on respecting human rights and the rule of law, including the protection of freedom of expression.

America also “recognizes the importance of protecting the freedom of individuals to seek, receive, and impart information through media of their choice.”

The IPID was created in 2019 during the presidency of Donald Trump, a guy who considers the media “the enemy of the people.”

All bets are off on America’s continued membership in the IPID following the 2024 election.