Boeing issues sharp response to labor complaint

A complaint against the Boeing Co., by the National Labor Relations Board is based on “misquotations and mischaracterizations,” the company said in a response Tuesday.

In late April, the labor board’s general counsel accused Boeing of retaliating against its Machinists union in the Puget Soun

d area when it selected South Carolina for a second 787 production line in 2009. The Machinists had staged a 57-day strike against Boeing the previous year. The labor board cited several statements by Boeing officials as evidence the company was punishing its employees here for work stoppages.

“A number of these statements, which are critical to your case against Boeing, fundamentally misquote or mischaracterize statements by Boeing executives and actions taken by the company,” wrote J. Michael Luttig, Boeing’s general counsel, in a response downloaded Tuesday from Scribd, a document sharing site. The company acknowledged the letter was authentic.

The errors have “done a grave disservice” to the company and its shareholders, Luttig wrote.

A hearing on the matter has been set for June in Seattle before an administrative law judge.

Luttig, however, finished his six-page letter to Lafe E. Solomon, general counsel for the labor board, by saying if Solomon was mistaken, he should withdraw his complaint. Last week, attorneys general for nine states, including South Carolina, sent Solomon a letter, also saying he should halt the complaint against Boeing.

Luttig took issue with the remedy Solomon suggested: for Boeing to establish a second 787 line in Washington state. Boeing is just two months from opening a new facility in South Carolina. The labor board has said it is not asking Boeing to close the North Charleston site.

Solomon has had more than a year to investigate a charge filed by the Machinists union shortly after the company announced its South Carolina pick in late October 2009. Boeing’s original 787 line is in Everett.

Over that time, Solomon repeatedly told Boeing that he did not believe the labor board should be involved and that he would take no action “if Boeing agreed that it would not lay off any 787 employees in the Puget Sound” region during its labor contract with the Machinists, Boeing’s Luttig wrote. The contract between the Machinists and Boeing runs out next year.

Boeing has said it did not lay off any 787 employees here in Washington and simply hired new employees in South Carolina.

“It is exceedingly difficult to understand how you could have proposed and then agreed to such a resolution” if Solomon believed Boeing’s conduct was so wrong that it warranted a labor board complaint, Boeing’s Luttig wrote.

The labor board complaint against Boeing has drawn attention around the country — not just in Washington and South Carolina. The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that several lawmakers from Tennessee as well as South Carolina soon will introduce legislation in Congress to restrain the labor board, following its complaint against Boeing.

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