The National Labor Relations Board complaint filed last week against Boeing is evolving into what could be an interesting test case, legal scholars say. The NLRB’s complaint was made in response to the International Associations of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union complaint that Boeing moved to South Carolina, a “right-to-work” state, in retaliation to the union’s past strike activity against the Boeing facility in Wasington state.
Boeing says no union members have lost jobs at the plant in Puget Sound because of the North Charleston facility. Charleston Law School adjunct professor Ken Lopatka says NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon is taking an interesting and, in his opinion, misleading position on the issue when he contends that he is not asking Boeing to shut down its North Charleston facility.
Construction of the factory is nearly complete and the company has hired more than 1,000 new workers. The plant is scheduled to begin assembling aircraft in July.
Boeing has been critical of the timing of the complaint, which comes a full 17 months after the company announced plans to expand its manufacturing capacity in South Carolina. The company contends the placing of the new operation in North Charleston was made for economic reasons. Lopatka says it is interesting to note that the union at Boeing has been involved in at least five lengthy and expensive strikes since 1989.
Governor Nikki Haley, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, and other politicians have rallied on behalf of Boeing, saying the NLRB complaint is frivolous and driven by a pro-union agenda. Lopatka says, despite the political posturing, politicians will have no input in the formal hearing that will occur in Seattle in June.
He adds the NLRB general counsel is taking the position that anytime strkes are a motivating factor for the employer, it is unlawful to add new work in a location that does not have a union and, as a result, no strike history. Lopatka says, what makes this case unique is Boeing’s stance that no union jobs in Washington were lost because of the new operation in North Charleston.
If the parties do not come to an agreement, the next step in the process will be a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Seattle, set for June 14, where both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence and arguments.