NLRB Fires Back at Critics of Boeing Complaint

 - May 16, 2011, 7:43 AM
Boeing plans to start building 787s at its new plant in North Charleston, S.C., in July. (Photo: Boeing)

National Labor Relations Board acting general counsel Lafe Solomon finally responded publicly last week to the uproar from Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits who claim an April 20 NLRB complaint against Boeing amounts to retribution for the company’s decision to locate a new factory in South Carolina–a so-called “right to work” state.

“Contrary to certain public statements made in recent weeks, there is nothing remarkable or unprecedented about the complaint issued against the Boeing Company on April 20,” said Solomon. “The complaint involves matters of fact and law that are not unique to this case, and it was issued only after a thorough investigation in the field, a further careful review by our attorneys in Washington, and an invitation by me to the parties to present their case and discuss the possibility of a settlement. Only then did I authorize the complaint alleging that certain statements and decisions by Boeing officials were discriminatory under our statute.”

The point of law to which Solomon refers hinges on the question of whether or not Boeing’s decision to locate the factory in North Charleston reflects an effort to retaliate for past strikes and “chill” future strike activity. Although it admits it based its decision partly on the threat of future work stoppages, Boeing calls the NLRB’s complaint “legally frivolous” and “a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent.”

In response to a May 3 letter from Boeing executive vice president and general counsel Michael Luttig, Solomon complained about “certain assertions and arguments concerning statements in the press about this matter.”

“Needless to say, I don’t agree with your contentions,” wrote Solomon. “There have been numerous conversations between my office and Boeing concerning the facts and the law surrounding the circumstances of this case so that each party is aware of the other’s position. The appropriate forum to test those positions and the relevance and probative value of your assertions is through the development of an evidentiary record on which an administrative law judge can make a decision that can be reviewed by the Board and ultimately the Courts.” 

The Board has set June 14 for a hearing before an NLRB judge in Seattle, where the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and management will each get a chance to present evidence and arguments.