Boeing lashes out at US labor board over complaint

Wed May 11, 2011 12:27pm EDT

* CEO attacks NLRB complaint in op-ed piece

* CEO says NLRB has overreached its authority

CHICAGO May 11 (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) denied allegations by a federal labor board that the plane-maker picked South Carolina as the site of the second line of 787 Dreamliner production to punish its unionized workforce.

Chief Executive Jim McNerney said in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the National Labor Relations Board was "wrong and has far overreached its authority."

McNerney's defense came ahead of a June hearing on the NLRB complaint, originally lodged by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, which represents workers on the first 787 line in Everett, Washington.

"The NLRB is wrong and has far overreached its authority," McNerney wrote. "Its action is a fundamental assault on the capitalist principles that have sustained America's competitiveness since it became the world's largest economy nearly 140 years ago."

The NLRB complaint says Boeing engaged in unfair labor practices against the IAM union to discourage strikes.

Boeing has said it will fight the complaint, which seeks an order requiring Boeing to operate the second 787 line in Washington state, where union workers build the company's commercial planes.

Boeing opened a second, nonunion production line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina after an aggressive campaign by workers in Washington's Puget Sound area to keep the project there.

"Contrary to the NLRB's claim, our decision to expand in South Carolina resulted from an objective analysis of the same factors we use in every site selection," McNerney wrote. No existing work is being sent to South Carolina and hiring in Washington continues, he said.

The IAM did not immediately comment on McNerney's statements. The union said in April that by opening the line in South Carolina, Boeing was trying to intimidate union members with the notion that work could be taken away.

The 2009 decision to open the 787 line in Charleston, South Carolina, came after it was "made clear to workers there that the only way they could ensure their future work on the 787 would be if they left the Machinists Union, forcing them to sacrifice their collective bargaining rights to have a chance at more jobs," the IAM said.

The light-weight, carbon-composite Dreamliner is about three years behind its original schedule because of problems with the extensive global supply chain.

In 2008, Boeing endured a 58-day strike over a contract dispute. Boeing blames that strike for one of the 787 delays. (Reporting by Kyle Peterson; editing by John Wallace)

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