On June 30, 2011, ALJ Clifford H. Anderson rejected Boeing Co.’s challenge to the controversial unfair labor practice complaint filed against it by the NLRB in April. The NLRB’s complaint, which has ignited a partisan firestorm, alleges that Boeing unlawfully transferred an aircraft assembly line from Washington State to South Carolina as retaliation for prior strikes by the unionized workforce in Washington State. The case will proceed to trial before the ALJ.
The case has drawn fierce condemnation by Congressional and Senate Republicans, Republican governors and state attorneys general, and right-to-work groups, who allege the case represents a frontal attack on right-to-work states. NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe E. Solomon has defended the complaint, pointing to a number of specific statements made in the press by Boeing officials concerning the desire to set up the production line in a non-union setting. For example, one high-level Boeing official told the Seattle Times that “The overriding factor (in locating the work in South Carolina) was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.”
In seeking dismissal of the unfair labor practice complaint, Boeing argued that the building a new production line for 787 Dreamliners in South Carolina did not represent a removal or transfer of work from Washington State, since the second production line had never been located in Washington State. Boeing further argued that the NLRB would have to - and could not - prove that any unionized Washington workers were adversely affected by the decision to build the production line in South Carolina. Additionally, Boeing argued that the comments made by its officials were taken out of context and that it only considered permissible factors in locating the production line in South Carolina.
In rejecting Boeing’s motion to dismiss the complaint prior to the NLRB General Counsel putting on evidence, the ALJ ruled that the NLRB General Counsel would have the opportunity to present evidence and make a showing of unlawful discrimination. The ALJ explained that it is unusual to dismiss an unfair labor practice complaint at such an early stage and ordered the trial to go forward. In addition, the ALJ also refused Boeing’s request to dismiss a costly potential remedy sought by the NLRB General Counsel - the transfer of the production line back to Washington State - and noted that Boeing had not yet set forth facts showing that the allegedly anti-union statements by its officials were taken out of context.