April 20, 2024

A sign at Spirit AeroSystems headquarters

A sign at Spirit AeroSystems headquarters
Photo: Julie Denesha (Getty Images)

A lot of things contributed to Boeing’s 737 Max mess. A corporate biographer says a 1997 merger reoriented the company’s bearing toward cost-cutting and financialization. Employees say they’re overworked and underpaid. Federal regulators say the manufacturer’s safety culture is lacking.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has another guess: diversity.

Paxton said Thursday that he would open an investigation into Spirit AeroSystems, the fuselage supplier behind Boeing’s heavily scrutinized Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 door plug blowout. As part of the inquiry, he’s asking for documents that cover some expected subjects: “Communications to Boeing where Spirit disclosed or discussed the MisDrilled Aft Pressure Bulkhead Holes Defect,” and “Documents sufficient to show how Spirit’s inspection team changed its procedures for documenting defects.”

But also included is a call for “Documents that Spirit relies on to substantiate its claim that a diverse workplace improves product quality.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs proliferated in the last few years following the 2020 police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the mass protests that followed. They have increasingly come under attack by conservatives who say DEI programs discriminate against white people.

It has become an increasingly common tactic in the wake of major corporate scandals to blame DEI, including after the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Paxton’s news release announcing his investigation says Spirit “must release documents related to its diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) commitments, and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.”

Spirit AeroSystems did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The document request comes at an inopportune time for Spirit, which is in discussions to rejoin Boeing almost 20 years after it was spun off to a private equity firm.

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