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NLRB Case Against Boeing Puts Obama on Defensive, Proves Power of Appointed Seats...

You probably missed this last April - first, some details of legal action against Boeing from the NLRB earlier this year:

"In what may be the strongest signal yet of the new pro-labor orientation of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama, the agency filed a complaint Wednesday seeking to forceBoeing to bring an airplane production line back to its unionized facilities in Washington State instead of moving the work to a nonunion plant in South Carolina.

In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing’s decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes. The agency’s Boeing acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said it was illegal for companies to take actions in retaliation against workers for exercising the right to strike."

Of course, Boeing wasn't shutting down its facility in Washington.  It was moving production capacity to South Carolina, as a hedge to being held hostage by future strikes:

"The labor board said that in 2007, Boeing announced plans to create a second production line that would make three 787 Dreamliner planes a month in the Puget Sound area to address a growing backlog of orders. That was to be in addition to a line already making seven Dreamliners a month there. In October 2009, Boeing said it would locate its second line at a new, nonunion plant in South Carolina.

The N.L.R.B. asserted that on numerous occasions Boeing officials had communicated an unlawful motive for transferring the production line, including an interview with The Seattle Times in which a Boeing executive said, “The overriding factor was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.

Boeing criticized the timing of the N.L.R.B.’s complaint, saying it came when construction of the factory in North Charleston, S.C., was nearly complete and after 1,000 employees had already been hired there.

Boeing said on Wednesday that none of the production jobs in South Carolina had come at the expense of jobs in Washington. It noted that its unionized employment in the Puget Sound area had increased by 2,000 since it announced its decision to expand in South Carolina.”

That's right kids - two existing production shops.  One union, one not.  The company decides to move some production to a non-union plant and in the time the company announces its intent, employment at the union plant grows by 2,000 jobs.  And the NLRB files this suit - after construction is almost complete.

What's wrong with spreading production of a product out across two plants, one union and one not, so you don't run the risk of not being able to deliver product if a stirke comes?  President Obama started ducking and weaving on the issue last week:

“As a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate -- they have to follow the law, but that's part of our system,” Obama said. “What I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can't come to a sensible agreement.

“And obviously, the air -- airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage.  I want to make sure that we keep it,” the president added.

That's some official fence-sitting gibberish.  What's it all mean?"  My wife was a prosectutor for over a decade, and anytime I'm lukewarm about voting, she pushes me to remember that those elected have a lot of power to appoint Federal judges - who are the source of a lot of policy power.

The NLRB case against Boeing is a good example.  You can beat back the Employee Free Choice Act, but never forget - the people appointed by your elected officials control a lot of the power related to policy.

Be interesting to watch this one unfold in South Carolina...

 

 

 

Comments

Boots

If one wanted to see the power of appointed seats on the NLRB one only has to go back to the Reagan years. Appointing union-busting attorneys took away many worker rights as they changed president setting cases. I was there as a working class union man while it happened. I describe it as disgusting.

Nathan

Can someone explain how the rationale of "we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years" is retaliatory? That sounds like a business decision.

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