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No end in sight for Boeing labor suit

Aircraft manufacturer says there’s been no new effort to settle 787 Dreamliner suit

Sometimes no news is just no news. Such is the case with Boeing Co., which has been embroiled in an extremely public battle all year with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The two sides have been sparring over claims that the aircraft manufacturer opened a nonunion production facility in South Carolina, a state known to be unfriendly to labor unions, to punish unionized workers and retaliate against the ones who participated in a strike, as well as prevent future strikes.

Boeing told the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee yesterday in a letter that it has not revived its efforts to settle the lawsuit. Boeing said that a deal had been tabled, but the NLRB withdrew it before the agency filed its complaint in the spring.

The company claimed in a statement that it had agreed to an NLRB proposal to protect union jobs at its Washington facility and avoid the legal challenge, but the deal fell through and settlement discussions have yet to resume. The case now sits before an administrative judge in Seattle.

The House committee has been hot on the heels of Boeing and the NLRB since early August, when committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) issued a subpoena for documents related to Boeing’s alleged union circumvention.

"NLRB's action in the case against Boeing has the potential to create a job-killing precedent just as U.S. manufacturers are working toward economic recovery,” Issa said in a statement at the time. “That a Washington, D.C.-based bureaucracy could dictate the work location and parameters for a world-leading company is unprecedented in a global economy and hobbles a leading American job creator at a time of economic vulnerability.”

In late September, news broke that Boeing’s union released internal documents that it claims reinforce the NLRB’s case. According to the documents, Boeing officials worried that the South Carolina facility, also known as “Project Gemini,” was a high-risk plan. Building the new plant for more than $750 million would exceed the costs of expanding the Washington facility. 

“The Project Gemini documents prove what we’ve suspected all along—that Boeing moved to Charleston to punish our members for exercising their union rights,” International Association of Machinists Spokesperson Connie Kelliher said at the time.

For more on Boeing’s battle with the NLRB, read Reuters.

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