Beaufort News

US Chamber lashes out at lawsuit to try to force Boeing to move some 787s from SC plant

The nation's largest pro-business lobbying group denounced on Friday the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit that seeks to shut down a $750 million assembly plant Boeing is building in North Charleston.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 3 million employers, joined the growing chorus of Boeing defenders by issuing a statement.

"We would rarely comment on the merits of a case still in its earliest stages. However, the precedent that the NLRB is attempting to establish here is so fundamentally unsound and troublesome that it cannot be ignored," said Randy Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits.

The federal labor agency sued Boeing on Wednesday, alleging it set up its 787 Dreamliner production plant in North Charleston partly to retaliate against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for past strikes in Washington state.

The labor board said Boeing executives told unionized employees the company would move or had moved production work away from the Puget Sound area partly "to retaliate for past strikes and chill future strike activity."

The labor board's acting general counsel Lafe Solomon said that violates the National Labor Relations Act.

Boeing and its supporters this week said the expansion was based on numerous factors. The U.S. Chamber said Friday the company considered "a wide variety of legitimate business-related reasons allowing it to meet the demands of its customers and therefore, to remain competitive."

Solomon said the National Labor Relations Board recognizes the rights of employers "to make business decisions based on their economic interests, but they must do so within the law."

The lawsuit seeks an order forcing Boeing to establish a secondary 787 assembly line in Everett, Wash., a unionized site.

The aerospace giant's local production workers are not represented by the IAM.

Boeing said this week it will fight the lawsuit and called the allegations frivolous. It also said its North Charleston plant would open on schedule in July. The company already has hired about 1,000 of the estimated 3,800 employees it will need to staff the new line, which is designed to produce three 787s a month.

The lawsuit will be taken up by a National Labor Relations Board judge at a hearing June 14 in Seattle, the start of what labor experts predict will be a long and costly legal battle.