AIN Blog: Don’t Blame Obama for Labor Board’s Complaint against Boeing

 - April 27, 2011, 5:15 AM

Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits claim that an April 20 National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing for building a 787 plant in South Carolina–a so-called right-to-work state–somehow arose out of the Obama Administration’s desire to punish the company for behaving in its own best interest. 

In fact, the NLRB complaint charges that Boeing’s choice of Charleston, S.C., as the location of a second assembly line for the 787, rather than the traditional Puget Sound area of Washington state, amounts to unlawful retribution for past strikes and an effort to chill future strike activity. The Board has set June 14 for a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Seattle, where the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and management will each get a chance to present evidence and arguments.

While one can fairly argue that the NLRB’s action looks like an attempt to dictate to a private company where it may build a factory, the facts simply don’t support the accusation that the Administration has engaged in some sort of vendetta. Since Boeing announced its plans to build the plant in South Carolina in October 2009, President Obama has named Boeing CEO Jim McNerney chairman of the President’s Export Council, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank has backed $8 billion worth of loans for Boeing airplanes during its 2010 fiscal year alone. Meanwhile, Boeing hasn’t stopped profiting handsomely from government contracts since this Administration took power.

So when the company presents its case on June 14, don’t expect it to argue that the Obama Administration harbors an anti-Boeing bias. Indeed, it might well present a solid legal case, but not based on any conspiracy theories.

“We will go in there with our legal arguments, which we think are more than adequate,” a Washington, D.C.-based Boeing official told AIN. “If the board were to uphold this complaint, I mean, this [would be] a major, major shift in terms of labor policy in the United States.”

Although Boeing called the complaint “frivolous” and has questioned its timing [it comes more than a year after IAM the filed its charge], it made no effort to assign any political motives to the NLRB’s action. In fact, it has praised the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts on its behalf throughout the world. 

“I would say we’ve had a good relationship with [the Obama Administration],” said the Boeing official. “We are the biggest exporter in the country of manufactured goods and we employ a lot of people in good paying jobs and we literally have a presence in every state when you look at our supply chain.

“So, the [various presidents’] administrations have been supportive, including this one, in trying to make sure we have a level playing field, as we say, with the competition. So, yea, it’s been good,” the official concluded.