Republican-Led House Panel to Hold Hearing on NLRB Suit Against Boeing

The Republican-dominated House Committee and its House Committee on Oversight and Government announced that it would conduct a June 17 hearing in South Carolina (not Washington D.C.??) on the lawsuit against Boeing Co. by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

As reported in the Ahlers & Cressman post dated May 5, 2011, the NLRB sued Boeing in April 2011 claiming that the manufacturer located its assembly line in South Carolina to retaliate against Washington State union workers who went on strike in 2008. The NLRB alleged that Boeing lashed out against its Washington workers for striking by constructing an assembly line in South Carolina. The NLRB wants the work returned to Washington State even though the company has already built a new South Carolina plant—the largest single industrial investment in South Carolina’s history—and hired 1000 workers. The NLRB wants production moved back to the State of Washington where most of the 787s are being assembled by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Boeing expects to deliver the first of its 787 dreamliners to a customer later this year and, with more than 800 orders, it’s expected to be a major seller for many years to come.

Boeing contends that stopping work on the 787s in South Carolina would be impermissibly punitive because it would effectively shut down the 787 assembly line. The Chicago-based company (erstwhile Seattle-based company) has also taken issue with the NLRB’s claim that the company removed or transferred any work from its Puget Sound facility asserting all work in South Carolina will be new and no union member has lost a job over the action.

An Administrative Law Judge in Seattle is scheduled to hear the NLRB case on June 14, 2011. The House Committee on Oversight and Government has scheduled to hold its Committee Hearing in North Charleston, home to Boeing’s new 787 passenger aircraft assembly line on June 17, 2011, right during the first week of the trial! The Committee has requested that the NLRB general counsel, Lafe Solomon, appear at the hearing; clearly, a conflict for the lawyer to be both at the NLRB hearing in Seattle and in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. Solomon has “declined” the request to be present at the House Committee Hearing in South Carolina. The hard charging Committee Chairman, Republican Darrell Issa of California has threatened to subpoena Solomon if necessary. Bare knuckle tactics are being employed to vex the NLRB lawyers during their Seattle trial; Beoing has some powerful allies in congress. There was no indication that Wahington congressional members are entering the fray.

Business groups and Republicans contend that the NLRB’s efforts could stifle economic growth and prevent companies from expanding to other states where labor costs may be cheaper. Republicans have unsuccessfully attempted to put public pressure on the Obama Administration to get the NLRB to back off. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said that the NLRB complaint, if successful, would give unions a virtual veto over business decisions and punish states like South Carolina.

The NLRB, after President Barak Obama’s appointments, has a democratic majority for the first time in a decade, but the NLRB remains an independent agency unaccustomed to overt political pressure from the White House or Congress. Nevertheless, Republicans have doggedly attacked the Boeing law suit during the last two Congressional Hearings and the litigation has been a prime topic during the GOP’s response to President Obama’s weekly radio address Saturday.

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