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Professors ask Boeing staff: Do you `live, eat, and breathe your job?'

Ashley Gross

A team of professors with the University of Puget Sound wants to know how happy—or unhappy—Boeing workers are. The professors are surveying the company's employees about their attitudes toward work with the goal of turning the research into a book. 

The professors have periodically surveyed and interviewed Boeing’s Puget Sound-area workers since 1996. In 2010, they released a book titled Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, which explored how workers have fared in a company that has gone through a big cultural change by outsourcing more work and merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

Now, the professors are trying to figure out how employees feel about Boeing in the wake of the 787 problems and expansion in South Carolina. 

"We’re also sort of interested to see if some of the disenchantment, anger and disengagement we found in our earlier longitudinal study due to the cultural changes that occurred in the late '90s still exist, or whether employee morale has improved," said University of Puget Sound sociologist Leon Grunberg.

The team is asking more than 30,000 machinists, engineers, and technicians to fill out the survey. How much do they agree with the statement “I live, eat, and breathe my job" or “I often think about quitting my job?" How much of the day does each worker spend goofing off?

Grunberg says he and the other researchers especially want to know how employees feel about unions in the wake of the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit over the South Carolina plant and the contentious engineers’ contract negotiations. They also want to know whether younger employees feel differently than older workers. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.