JOURNAL BURIES BOEING LEDE


Jim DeMint Communications Advisor Amanda Carpenter yesterday tweeted a link to a Wall Street Journal story on a motion filed by three South Carolina Boeing employees working with the National Right to Work Foundation. Boeing, as I explained in this piece, is charged by the NLRB’s General Counsel with retaliating against union members in Washington State by transferring a new line of airliners to South Carolina. The three workers, at least one of whom was active in campaigning to get rid of the Machinists union at the South Carolina plant, want to intervene in the case in defense of Boeing. Carpenter is presumably tweeting (on her personal feed) the article because she likes seeing Boeing employees siding with the company (at least three, that is). But I’d say the most revealing piece of the WSJ story is buried in the sixth paragraph (emphasis mine):

When Boeing bought one of the pre-existing 787 facilities in the state, the production employees working there at the time were represented by the Machinists union and Boeing was “more than willing to work with” the union, the motion says. Still, one of the three employees now seeking to intervene successfully led an effort to decertify the union at that plant in September 2009, in part to improve Boeing’s chances of building the new facility, the motion says.

So one of the Boeing workers thought going non-union would improve the chances of Boeing moving production to South Carolina. How does that help Boeing’s case that it doesn’t retaliate against union activity? Would be interesting to know if any Boeing management suggested to this worker that getting rid of the union would be seen favorably by the company. (That could have been grounds for another Unfair Labor Practice charge). Maybe the Journal could do a follow-up story on the topic.

I tweeted at Carpenter yesterday to get her take on this part of the story, but so far no response.

Update: The NRWF motion is on-line. In his declaration, Dennis Murray says

Besides our lack of support for the IAM, it soon became clear to many employees that there was another reason to decertify the union. In 2009, during all of this maelstrom and the decertification campaign, the media was reporting that Boeing was in the middle of a site selection process to decide where it should create a new final assembly and delivery line for the production of large aircraft. It was reported that Boeing was looking at several sites all over the country, including Charlestown. Many employees knew about Boeing’s site selection process, and discussed the fact that a decertification of the IAM would make our facility in Charlestown all the more attractive to Boeing, since it was common knowledge that the IAM had caused major labor problems for the company in Seattle.

Again, though the six month window to file ULP charges has passed, it would be very interesting to know what part Boeing management played in creating the perception that getting rid of the union was the way to get favorable treatment from the company.

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One thought on “JOURNAL BURIES BOEING LEDE

  1. This is such a double-edged sword. You’ve identified a key question, though it’s somewhat collateral to the current charge, which is whether Boeing played a role in the South Carolina decertification. If so, there might be a Board charge in South Carolina, and it might also strengthen the Board’s argument in Washington, if it could be shown that Boeing worked to decertify the South Carolina union specifically so that it could retaliate against the IAM in Washington.

    However, following that argument through also reveals two big flaws. First, the chain of logic doesn’t quite make sense. Boeing wouldn’t need to ensure another non-union facility in order to retaliate against the IAM local in Washington (which is what has been charged). Moving anywhere else would accomplish that. It might be that Boeing understood that moving to another union shop wouldn’t have the same sting in Washington (and thus wouldn’t accomplish as much), because union workers would still be getting the work. But it doesn’t really strengthen the inference that Boeing was trying to retaliate. Rather, It shows that _if_ Boeing was trying to retaliate, they were trying to do it in a way that would also hurt the IU.

    Second, if unionization was a public and well-known factor in the selection process, that could either be because Boeing publicly made threats as a form of retaliation (as the Board claims) or because Boeing is fairly straightforward about its economic priorities and its policy of union avoidance. The latter is totally permissible. If Boeing was telling everyone that it prefers non-union shops because there’s less hassle, that seems less like retaliation for specific Sec. 7 activity in Washington and more like general company policy.

    It’s a very grey area, which gives companies a lot of leeway. But that greyness is kind of necessary, at least in the absence of a better anti-retaliation system or stronger effects bargaining. Otherwise literally every decision could be cast as retaliatory and the law would become unenforceable.

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