Boeing’s South Carolina 787 Assembly Line Disappointing But Not ‘Unfair’
The Seattle Times Editorial Board Does Not Support The National Labor Relations Board’s Move Against Boeing.
April 23, 2011
The Seattle Times
IT was a blow to Puget Sound country when Boeing put its second 787 assembly line in South Carolina. It was also part of a hardball negotiation between the company and the International Association of Machinists. This page regretted Boeing's decision, but has never thought of it as something that could be, or should be, reversed by the federal government.
The National Labor Relations Board has labeled Boeing's decision an unfair labor practice, and is asking a federalcourt to order the line to be moved to Washington. We would celebrate the day Boeing decided to do that — but it is Boeing's decision.
The company and the union are both grown-ups here. Each knows its rights.
The union has a right to strike. It may be unwise to strike at a particular time, such as the month Wall Street had its worst collapse in 75 years, but it is the union's right.
The company has the right to build assembly plants. It can build them in South Carolina or in Afghanistan if it likes. Its decision may be unwise, but it is Boeing's.
Clearly, Boeing could have skipped the negotiation and put its second line in North Charleston, S.C., keeping its reasons to itself. The "unfair" thing was to bellyache publicly that it was tired of strikes, which everyone knew, and to offer to put the plant here if the Machinists agreed not to strike for 10 years.
Was it not better to offer the chance for a deal?
If that put the Machinists under pressure — and it did — such pressures are part of life in American industry. This page urged the union to agree to a no-strike deal, as did public figures such as U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton.
Machinists did negotiate, offering Boeing a no-strike agreement if the company would have a no-layoff agreement. The company would not. The Machinists would not accept Boeing's proposal without one oftheir own. The talks ended and Boeing announced for North Charleston.
That limits Boeing's growth here, but it has not stopped it. Boeing has increased employment of IAM members here by 2,000 since announcing the Charleston decision. At planned production rates of 10 airplanes per month, seven of them will be assembled in Everett, by Machinists.
Finally there is a matter of timing. More than two years have gone by since Boeing's decision. In South Carolina the company has invested $1 billion and hired more than 1,000 workers. It's a done deal.
… Bad News For Boeing
April 22, 2011
The Chicago Tribune
Boeing employees assemble 787 Dreamliners in the company's Everett, Wash., factory, in 2009. The company's plans to open another production line, this one in South Carolina, have drawn fire from theNational Labor Relations Board.Boeing, the Chicago-based aviation company, already has one government-induced headache. Its main rival, Airbus SAS, has received from European nations about $20 billion in subsidies that are prohibited by international trade agreements. That is challenging enough for Boeing as it tries to compete in an international market.
But when the U.S. government tries to dictate where Boeing can do business … that's even harder to stomach.
This week, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint over Boeing's plans to open a plant in South Carolina. Boeingis not seeking to outsource work to a foreign country. Boeing has chosen a manufacturing location in the U.S. based on cost and risk factors. It plans to open a second production line of its 787 Dreamliner plane there. The plant has been built.
Boeing executives have acknowledged that they were reluctant to expand in Washington state because of the risk of a labor strike. Boeing's workers in Washington belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Its plant in South Carolina would be nonunion.
Boeing is not being alarmist. Workers in Washington went on strike for nearly two months in 2008. The company said it couldn't reach a deal with the union to expand operations at Puget Sound, Wash., for the Dreamliner.
Seizing on the words of Boeing executives, the NLRB inferred that the decision to choose South Carolina was retaliation against the union. The labor board demands that Boeing open the second production line in Washington.
Retaliation? Sounds more like the U.S. government — the NLRB — is retaliating against Boeing for seeking a better business climate in South Carolina. Appointments by President Barack Obama have given the five-member NLRB a pro-labor tilt.
Boeing says it will move forward with plans to begin assembly in South Carolina in July. The plant is ready for about 1,000 workers. The NLRB filed its complaint 18 months after Boeing announced it would expand in South Carolina.
The NLRB says Boeing is free to do business there — but its second production line has to run in Washington.
This is a gross intrusion by the NLRB. The disastrous, unintended message to a major U.S. employer: Keep your mouth shut and find another country to do business.