Boeing employees worried at work as coronavirus infections increase

SEATTLE -- Boeing employees in the region say they are increasingly worried about the spread of COVID-19 as more coworkers test positive for the virus. Now hundreds are calling on the company to close down its plants like other large companies have done.

Boeing said 18 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Puget Sound region and about 1,000 more are under company or public health directed quarantine. Boeing has around 70,000 employees in the region.

Many Boeing employees are reaching out to Q13 News concerned, angry and confused about conditions at the workplace. Others have signed an online petition calling on Boeing to close its plants for the sake of community health.

Employees have told us they work too closely to each other in Everett to practice social distancing of six feet. They also complained about a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, and even hand sanitizer.

Boeing said in a statement that the company is aware its employees have questions and concerns about the virus and are doing what they can to address them.

"Our facilities team is taking extra precautions and cleaning to an enhanced standard at all locations, following guidance from regulatory agencies such as the CDC," Boeing said.

The company said that includes more frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, like light switches, door handles and bathrooms, and directing teams to give more physical space during meetings and in workspaces.

Boeing told Q13 News that none of the 18 confirmed cases among its Puget Sound employees appear to be linked. They said the Everett site alone spans more than 100 buildings and there's no confirmed transmission among crew members.

International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751 is calling on Boeing to provide masks in work areas where six feet of social distancing is not possible, to provide more crew space in all areas and to give training to all workers when assigned to deep cleaning. The union is not calling on the plant to be shut down.

"If we demand that operations be shut down, we have no way of knowing how long a shutdown will last and how much pay members will receive," IAM District 751 said in a statement.

Employees who are placed on quarantine by the company or a public health official are given up to 14 days full pay.