Boeing Goes Green, Gets Sued 

Labor board believes aviation giant is trying to intimidate unions

Last week, Boeing announced that it will make seemingly every effort to ensure that its new Dreamliner facility will be an environmentally friendly one, including installing 10 acres of solar panels on the factory's massive roof.

However, the Chicago-based company didn't have long to celebrate that announcement before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against the firm that could possibly shutter the North Charleston facility.

The NLRB claims Boeing decided to move part of its Dreamliner operations to North Charleston in order to punish union workers at the firm's plants in Washington state. Strikes by these unionized employees have helped cause a series of ongoing production delays for the new line of jets. Company executives have said several times that such delays would not occur in the right-to-work state of South Carolina.

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Catherine Templeton to head the state's Department of Labor. According to Haley, Templeton's primary purpose is to squash potential moves by Dreamliner employees to unionize, despite the fact that Boeing's North Charleston workers previously agreed to disband their union.

In response to Templeton's hiring, the International Association of Machinists and S.C. AFL-CIO filed a suit against Gov. Haley and Templeton, claiming the pair violated "the federal constitutional and statutory rights to free speech, free association, and due process by establishing a state governmental policy of hostility to unions and workers seeking to join unions," according to an IAM press release.

The board believes that the move to South Carolina is an illegal effort to intimidate unions. The first hearing is scheduled for June 14 in Seattle, but it could be years before the issue is resolved.

In response to the NLRB lawsuit, South Carolina's senior senator and other elected officials quickly threw their support behind Boeing. "I would be surprised if any court recognized the legitimacy of this complaint. It's pretty easy to see that at its heart, this is about union politics," says U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "It makes perfect sense for a world-class company like Boeing to diversify their production capabilities. Boeing made a solid business decision in coming to South Carolina, and we welcome them with open arms."

A day before the NLRB lodged their complaint, Boeing executives and state politicians were in town to cheer the Dreamliner factory's broad environmental efforts, which include the installation of solar panels and the implementation of a zero-to-landfill policy that focuses on recycling and compost. Boeing also announced a $129,000 grant for education programs that prepare students for workforce jobs.


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