The Boeing Co. on Tuesday asked a judge in Seattle to dismiss a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board that accuses the plane maker of breaking the law when it built a nonunion production line in South Carolina.
The complaint by NLRB acting general counsel Lafe Solomon accused Boeing of illegally retaliating against union workers for past strikes by adding a nonunion assembly line for its new 787 passenger jet in South Carolina.
The NLRB said Boeing also should move that assembly work to unionized plants in Washington state, where other 787s are assembled.
At the opening of a hearing on the case Tuesday, Boeing attorney William Kilberg said the legal dispute has cast a shadow over the company. He said the process has affected Boeing, its employees, its suppliers and its investments. “It’s made life very, very difficult for Boeing,” he said.
“There’s no one injured, no one identified as being injured. No one has lost a job. We have no idea when the board talks about work being transferred, what work they’re referring to,” Kilberg said, adding that 3,176 jobs have been added in Everett.
Carson Glickman-Flora, an attorney representing the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said Tuesday that it is not necessary to demonstrate economic harm to show Boeing broke the law.
The government’s complaint alleges that company executives made repeated statements to Boeing employees and the media citing the union’s past strike activity and the possibility of future strikes as the overriding factors in deciding to locate a second line in South Carolina.
Boeing contends that the NLRB unfairly twisted or mischaracterized selected statements or took them out of context to file the complaint. The company says stopping 787 work in South Carolina would be impermissibly punitive because it would effectively shut down a new plant that has already hired 1,000 workers.
The hearing is just the beginning of what could be years of litigation between Boeing and the government. Arguments before an administrative law judge could last a month or two, NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said, with a decision likely to come later this year. If Boeing loses, it could appeal the case to the five-member NLRB and then to a federal appeals court.