LaborTalk for April 29, 2011

Labor Board Cites Boeing Move as Illegal;
Corporations Attack Board as Pro-Union

By Harry Kelber

A heated controversy has erupted over the alleged NLRB's pro-union bias against Boeing when it filed a complaint against the giant aircraft manufacturer to force it to move its production facilities from a non-union factory in South Carolina to its unionized plant in Washington State. The complaint was filed by Lafe Solomon, NLRB's acting general counsel, who has been associated with the board for 39 years.

Solomon scoffed at Republican charges that his decision was designed to help boost President Obama's labor vote in the 2012 election. He said: "My goal is to enforce the National Labor Relations Act." Solomon states that the Boeing move to South Carolina was a punitive act against its employees, whose right to strike is protected by the labor law.

Boeing openly admits that it made the move to South Carolina, because it wanted to avoid strikes by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the union of its employees. The last strike over a three-year contract lasted 57 days.

Boeing insists it has the right to locate its plants wherever it wants to. It says it has hired 1,000 workers in South Carolina to produce the new 787 jet Dreamliner at the non-union plant. It intends to fight the Labor Board ruling, and expects to get widespread support from other companies.

The company's general counsel, J. Michael Luftig, says: the NLRB claim is "legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent. Boeing has every right, under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement, to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region."

The 1935 Labor Law Specified Workers' Rights

When Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, its intent was clear: to provide workers and their unions with some protections against the overwhelming power of big employers. Under the new law, hundreds of thousands of working people were able to join unions for the first time, resulting in the rapid growth of the CIO.. Section 7 of the Act states:

"Employees shall have the right of self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection":

Section 8 defines a series of " unfair labor practices" by employers, of which this is the first: paragraph:

"It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to interfere with, `restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them in Section 7."

* * * * *

Both employer groups and unions will be watching intently as the Boeing case is considered by the courts, because the verdict is certain to have a profound effect on collective bargaining. More than likely, the case will also be taken up by the full Labor Board, where Democrats have a majority of the seats. There is the possibility that it may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is outrageously untrue that workers are strike- happy, and that they engage in work stoppages at the least excuse. In fact, unions avoid strikes, not only because they are costly to members, but they create hostility and bitterness in the workplace long after an agreement is finally reached. It would be interesting to know how Boeing managers behaved to cause their workers to lose 57 days of pay.—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on May 6, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

Powered by