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Labor board drops complaint against Boeing over S.C. plant

December 09, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • A Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands in Seongnam Airport in South Korea in October. Boeing has opened a plant in South Carolina to help produce the passenger jet.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands in Seongnam Airport in South Korea in October.… (Seong Joon Cho / Bloomberg )

The National Labor Relations Board dropped its much-disparaged action against Boeing Co. on Friday, a move praised by Republicans as overdue but one that deprives the GOP of one of its most reliable talking points in its criticism of the Obama administration.

The NLRB filed a complaint against Boeing in March accusing the aerospace company of establishing a nonunion production line in South Carolina in retaliation against union workers in Washington state for past strikes.

The machinists union entered into a new four-year contract extension with Boeing earlier this week and, as part of the deal, agreed to withdraw its unfair labor practices charge against the company. That led the NLRB to drop the case.

"I am very happy to announce that my office has approved the withdrawal of a charge by the machinists union against the Boeing Co., which brings our case in this matter to an end," NLRB acting general counsel Lafe Solomon said in a statement.

The NLRB’s complaint against Boeing drew a steady stream of complaints from GOP presidential candidates and South Carolina business leaders, who accused the Obama administration of being anti-business and argued that the NLRB would cost the state new jobs.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that the president played no role in convincing the labor board to abandon the case.

“The NLRB is an independent board. And as he has said previously, the president thinks labor and management should find ways to work together to preserve and create jobs, and we are, he is glad they have reached a resolution here,” Carney said. “But this was not something the president was involved in.”

Asked about the case while walking outside the White House on Friday, the president said he was "glad people are gonna be working."

Mitt Romney in a statement said he welcomed the decision but accused the Obama administration of allowing unions to set labor policy.

“While it is good news for the people of South Carolina, it does little for workers and businesses around the country who depend on a fair and impartial U.S. government,” Romney said.

GOP candidate Jon Huntsman also weighed in: “The NLRB decision is a victory in a battle that should have never been fought,” Huntsman said. “Their action against Boeing in South Carolina was an unprecedented attempt to interfere in the free market, and an attempt to politicize companies’ decisions as how and where they create jobs.”

Boeing had argued its decision to build a new facility in Charleston, S.C., to help build the 787 Dreamliner passenger jet was purely a business move, not an act of retaliation, and maintained it would not take away jobs from workers in Washington state. As part of the new deal with the machinists union, Boeing agreed to build a new fleet of 737 jets in the Seattle area.

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