Unions resist retaliation; Repbulican lawmakers seek to facilitate it

Republicans in the US House have drafted a bill that would undermine the National Labor Relations Board’s ability to enforce laws that prevent companies from retaliating against union members who participate in legal job actions. The bill was drafted as the NLRB pursues in court a complaint against Boeing for moving work to a non-union shop in retaliation against a strike by IAM members. In the meantime, a union in Texas has filed an unfair labor charge with the NLRB against its members’ employer for moving work to a non-union shop after the union won an arbitration case against the company.

The NLRB in April charged Boeing with an unfair labor practice for retaliating against members of IAM District 751 at Boeing’s plant near Seattle. The NLRB’s complaint says that Boeing moved a second production line of its new 787 Dreamliner to its non-union plant in Charleston, South Carolina in order to punish its union workers in Seattle for conducting a legal strikes.

Among an array of evidence that the NLRB presents in its charge against Boeing are public statements made by Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, who on one occasion told investors that Boeing was moving some of the work on the 787 to a non-union plant because of “strikes happening every three to four years in (Seattle).”

To protect union workers from further retaliation and to punish Boeing for this act, the NLRB is seeking to move the 787 work at the non-union facility back to Seattle.

Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson is currently hearing arguments from both sides. In June, Anderson ruled against a motion by Boeing to dismiss the NLRB complaint. Earlier in the month, he ruled against another motion by Boeing to have the NLRB turn over its investigation documents that led the NLRB to file the complaint.

After the judge ruled against Boeing, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to the NLRB’s general counsel Lafe Solomon demanding that the NLRB turn over the investigation documents to him. The Seattle Times reports that in his letter Rep. Issa asserts that attorney-client privilege that would otherwise protect the release of these documents is superseded by a Congressional subpoena.

The Republican draft bill would if enacted prevent the NLRB from requiring companies to return work that has been moved to non-union plants in retaliation for legal job actions back to union plants. If passed, the law would be retroactive.

The hearing in Judge Anderson’s court is expected to last for quite some time. When it is concluded, the judge will rule on the charge. His decision can be appealed by either side.

Meanwhile in Texas, Bell Helicopter recently announced that it is moving some of the work done by unionized tactical buyers who work at the company’s plant in Fort Worth to its non-union facility in Amarillo, Texas. UAW Local 317, which represents the buyers, filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Bell asserting that the move was retaliation for the union filing grievances and seeking arbitration rulings on contract disputes.

JaNae McPeek, Local 317 president, told the Fort Worth Star Telegram that the local recently won an arbitration case against Bell but that the company has been unwilling to implement the ruling.

Local 317’s lawyer, Rod Tanner, told the Star Telegram that the union’s complaint makes many of the same arguments that the NLRB used when it filed charges against Boeing.

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