Boeing’s Right to Relocate Some Operations to South Carolina before NLRB

Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will begin its unfair labor practice case against Boeing, insisting that the company may not move some of its operations from Washington to South Carolina because the move might somehow violate workers’ rights. The outcome of this case goes well beyond South Carolina, but it is vitally important to the state — in particular, the Charleston area.

The complaint alleges that Boeing’s decision to move some operations to South Carolina was made in retaliation against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) for work stoppages in the past. According to the complaint, the IAM had engaged in strikes against Boeing in 1977, 1989, 1995, 2005, and 2008. The union hasn’t represented Boeing employees in North Charleston since 2009, when employees at the facility voted to decertify it. The complaint asks the NLRB to require Boeing to relocate the production line to the Puget Sound facility.

“The NLRB’s position that a business cannot choose where it wants to locate a new facility, even if its decision doesn’t affect the workload of its unionized employees [in this case, in Washington state], could be a game changer,” the editors of South Carolina Employment Law Letter reported.

The NLRB’s position in the case has been called unprecedented and frivolous, according to Workplace FYI, a blog by the editors of the Federal Employment Law Insider.

“What is most surprising about those characterizations is they came from, among others, the labor law professoriate that is usually a knee-jerk support of the labor board in any union-supporting effort,” Burton Fishman posted on the Worplace FYI blog. “Long-time union stalwarts have noted that the NLRB’s conduct is the boldest act of its recent pro-labor activist agenda and have questioned its wisdom, if not its intent.”

South Carolina Employment Law Letter, Washington Employment Law Letter, and Federal Employment Law Letter will continue to follow this important case and provide analysis on the outcome and what it means to employers.