No settlement in view in Boeing labor suit


An effort to settle a US labor suit against Boeing Co’s decision to build 787 Dreamliners in non-union South Carolina faltered earlier this year and has not been revived, said the company.

Responding to a letter from the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee to panel chairman Darrell Issa about subpoenaed documents in the case, Boeing said a deal had been on the table but was withdrawn by the National Labor Relations Board  before the agency filed its complaint last spring.

The complaint alleged Boeing built the second 787 assembly line in Charleston to retaliate against the International Association of Machinists for past strikes against the aerospace giant’s operations in Washington state, Reuters reports.

Boeing has said the complaint is unfounded.

The company said in a statement it had agreed to a proposal by NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon to protect union jobs at the Washington facility and avert the legal challenge.

But the aerospace giant said the deal collapsed and settlement discussions have not resumed. The case, now before an administrative judge in Seattle, has moved slowly due to legal wrangling over access to thousands of documents.

The NLRB had no immediate comment.

The politically charged nature of the case was underscored by phone calls cited in the letter sent to Issa on Wednesday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, who said he was concerned about Boeing’s efforts to involve Congress in the matter.

Boeing said in its statement “the parties had a significant number of conversations” prior to the complaint and that “these discussions were candid and professional.” Boeing said it “would be obliged to bring the matter to the attention” of Congress if the NLRB went through with the suit.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, talked to Boeing and told Solomon in a phone call that things would get “nasty, very, very nasty” if a suit was filed, according to documents cited in Cummings’ letter.

Graham, who has called the NLRB an “out of control bureaucracy” and the labor complaint ridiculous, said he personally was going “full guns a-blazing” if the case proceeded, according to the documents cited.

Graham’s office confirmed the remarks and said Graham only sought to convey that the case would trigger a strong political reaction in Washington and at home, and that he would personally “vigorously criticize” the agency.
“I knew the (complaint) would harm the economy of South Carolina by discouraging companies from investing (there) and sowing doubt over the Boeing operation and its suppliers in the state,” Graham said in a statement.
“Mr. Solomon agreed that he had to do what he had to do and I had to do what I had to do,” Graham said after it became clear the suit would move forward.

Issa has been critical of the NLRB and his committee has subpoenaed documents in its investigation of the agency’s case against Boeing.

The case is United States of America before the National Labor Relations Board Region 19 v. The Boeing Co and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751; No. 19-CA-32431