CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – Boeing engaged in unfair labor practices when it decided to build a new $750 million plant in Charleston, rather than assign more work to its unionized factory in Everett, Wash., the National Labor Relations Board says. Gov. Nikki Haley called the NLRB complaint an “assault,” and “bullying” from “a meddlesome, self-serving union.”
Workers at the new plant, scheduled to open this summer, are not represented by a union. It was built as a second assembly line for Boeing’s long-delayed 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft.
The lawsuit stems from a March 2010 unfair labor complaint from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace District Lodge 751.
The NLRB said Boeing officials “made coercive statements to its employees that it would remove or had removed work from the Unit because employees had struck and Respondent threatened or impliedly threatened that the Unit would lose additional work in the event of future strikes.”
The NLRB complaint cites a quarterly earnings phone call in October 2009 during which Jim McNerney, president, chairman and CEO of Boeing, “made an extended statement regarding ‘diversifying [Respondent’s] labor pool and labor relationship,’ and moving the 787 Dreamliner work to South Carolina due to ‘strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.'”
The Machinists Union has engaged in five strikes against Boeing since 1977.
The NLRB seeks an order requiring Boeing to “operate the second line of 787 Dreamliner aircraft assembly production in the state of Washington, utilizing supply lines maintained by the Unit in the Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, area facilities.”
But the NLRB lawsuit does not ask that Boeing shut down the North Charleston plant.
Although not a party to the suit, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday issued a statement in which she characterized the NLRB complaint as “an absolute assault on a great corporate citizen and on South Carolina’s right-to-work status.”
“We will continue to do everything we can to protect that status, and to stand with companies like Boeing who understand what it means to take care of their employees without the interference of a meddlesome, self-serving union. This bullying will not be tolerated in South Carolina,” Haley said.
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