NLRB charges Boeing with illegal retaliation

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday filed a complaint charging Boeing with illegal retaliation for moving a second line of production of its new Dreamliner 787 airplane from Everett, Washington to Charleston, South Carolina to punish members of the International Association of Machinists District 751 at the Everett plant for exercising their legal right to strike against the company in 2008, 2005, 1995, and 1989.

The NLRB filed the complaint after investigating an unfair labor practice charge filed in 2010 against Boeing by IAM District 751. The complaint was filed in response to comments made by Boeing executives like CEO and President James McNerney, Jr., who in October 2009 told a quarterly earnings conference call that Boeing would diversify its labor pool and labor relations by moving the second 787 production line to South Carolina due “to strikes happening every three or four years in Puget Sound (Everett).”

“By opening the line in Charleston, Boeing tried to intimidate our members with the idea that the company would take away work unless (workers)  made concessions at the bargaining table,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of IAM District 751. “But the law is clear; American workers have the right to pursue collective bargaining and no company–not even Boeing– can threaten or punish them for exercising their rights.”

In 2008, a strike by IAM  members stopped Boeing from forcing workers to make health care and pension concessions. The company wanted workers to pay more for their health care premium and prescription medicines, and it wanted  to take away pension benefits for families of deceased workers, even though the company had recorded $13 billion in net profits since 2002. The strike also limited Boeing’s plan to outsource work.

After the strike ended, Boeing executives complained that the union gave workers too much say in how the plant was run, which led to its decision to move the second production line to South Carolina. Before Boeing moved to South Carolina, it told workers at the Charleston airplane factory that Boeing had purchased from a company that went out of business that they would have to vote to decertify the IAM as their bargaining representative if they wanted the work moved to South Carolina, which they did.

South Carolina sweetened the deal by offering Boeing $170 million in grants and incentives and tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to move the work to Charleston.

A hearing on the complaint will be heard on June 14 by an NLRB Administrative Judge. The labor board will be asking the judge to return the work moved to South Carolina in retaliation for the strikes back to Everett.

“Taking work away from workers because they exercise their union rights is against the law, and it’s against the law in 50 states,” Wroblewski said. “Had we allowed Boeing to break the law and go unchecked in their actions, it would have given the green light to corporate America to discriminate against union members and would have become management’s new template to attack employees.”

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