Boeing, U.S. Labor Board Spar Over 787 Plant

Hearings began Tuesday in Seattle for the complaint that the National Labor Relations Board filed against Boeing (NYSE:BA) in March for building a 787 assembly plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. (In a right-to-work state, employees are not required to join or pay dues to a union.)

Tuesday morning, Boeing filed a Motion to Dismiss before the judge, but the judge has not had an opportunity to review the motion yet.

We filed the motion because the facts of the case just do not support the allegations that the NLRB has made, Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said.

The NLRB accused Boeing of illegally building its second 787 assembly plant in Charleston as a way of retaliating against the union strikes that had previously occurred in Washington state, including a one-month strike in 2005 and a 52-day strike in 2008. The complaint filed by the NLRB demands that the plant, which officially opened on Friday, be moved to Washington where the other Boeing 787 assembly line is located.

Boeing violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act by making coercive statements and threats to employees for engaging in statutorily protected activities, and by deciding to place the second line at a non-union facility in retaliation for past strike activity and to chill future strike activity by its union employees, said the NLRB in statement posted on its website.

The NLRB refused to comment during legal proceedings.

Boeing has added more than 3,000 hourly union workers since the decision to build the plant, 18 months ago.

None of their statements are threatening in any way, said Neale. What they did was acknowledge that we did take strikes into consideration, but its legal to do that. The Supreme Court has been clear on that. Companies can take the economic damage of strikes into account.

According to an NLRB representative, todays proceedings were mostly housekeeping. The hearings will continue for several weeks.

This is the beginning of what could be years of litigation. If Boeing loses, it is prepared to take it to the Federal Court.

We are confident it will be thrown out [at the Federal Court], said Neale.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has threatened to hold up confirmation of President Obamas pick for Department of Commerce Secretary unless the president lends his support to Boeing. Tell the country we think Boeings a good, ethical company and theyve done nothing wrong, urged Graham.

The 787 Dreamliner assembly building will continue to operate regardless of the current proceedings. The first completed planes are expected to be done in 2012.