Thursday, April 21, 2011
The NLRB's General Counsel has issued a complaint alleging violations of Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) resulting from Boeing's transfer of work from its unionized Washington plant to its non-union South Carolina plant. The complaint is based on statements by Boeing in which it told employees that the move was caused by past and the possibility of future strikes. According to the NLRB press release:
NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon today issued a complaint against the Boeing Company alleging that it violated federal labor law by deciding to transfer a second production line to a non-union facility in South Carolina for discriminatory reasons.
Boeing announced in 2007 that it planned to assemble seven 787 Dreamliner airplanes per month in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, where its employees have long been represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The company later said that it would create a second production line to assemble an additional three planes a month to address a growing backlog of orders. In October 2009, Boeing announced that it would locate that second line at the non-union facility.
In repeated statements to employees and the media, company executives cited the unionized employees’ past strike activity and the possibility of strikes occurring sometime in the future as the overriding factors in deciding to locate the second line in the non-union facility.
The NLRB launched an investigation of the transfer of second line work in response to charges filed by the Machinists union and found reasonable cause to believe that Boeing had violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act because its statements were coercive to employees and its actions were motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strikes and chill future strike activity.
“A worker's right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act,” Mr. Solomon said. “We also recognize the rights of employers to make business decisions based on their economic interests, but they must do so within the law. I have worked with the parties to encourage settlement in the hope of avoiding costly litigation, and my door remains open to that possibility.”
To remedy the alleged unfair labor practices, the Acting General Counsel seeks an order that would require Boeing to maintain the second production line in Washington state. The complaint does not seek closure of the South Carolina facility, nor does it prohibit Boeing from assembling planes there.
Absent a settlement between the parties, the next step in the process will be a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Seattle, set for June 14, at which both parties will have an opportunity to present evidence and arguments.