A courtroom in Seattle, WA was the setting for the opening day of a highly anticipated legal showdown between the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Boeing Company over charges that Boeing violated federal labor law when it moved 787 Dreamliner production from Puget Sound to South Carolina.
The case, which will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge, is expected to continue for at least several months and gets underway in the wake of an extraordinary campaign by conservative politicians and pundits determined to hijack the dispute.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, Boeing and its allies have attacked the NLRB, smeared its representative and dismissed the decades-old law that protects workers’ rights as arcane, unnecessary and anti-American.
NLRB Acting General Counsel Leif Solomon, who filed the complaint against Boeing, has been the subject of unprecedented political pressure. Ten Republican Senators have linked his 39-year career to the Boeing case, while the GOP-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform threatened to subpoena Solomon to appear before a thinly-veiled partisan hearing titled, “Unionization Through Regulation: The NLRB’s Holding Pattern on Free Enterprise.”
IAM attorney David Campbell responded to the politicization of the case. “In my 28 years of practicing law, I have never seen an employer use these types of overtly political tactics to avoid a legal proceeding,” said Campbell. “This tactic shows all too clearly how desperate the Company is to avoid litigating the merits of a case it knows it will lose.”
The actual dispute involves Boeing’s decision to establish a 787 assembly line in North Charleston, SC, and is based on federal labor law that prohibits retaliation against union-represented employees. In repeated public statements, senior Boeing executives cited lawful work stoppages by IAM members in Puget Sound among the reasons for their decision to locate the 787 facility in South Carolina.