Boeing Workers Battle Big Labor, Obama NLRB

South Carolina Boeing employee Dennis Murray, a quality assurance inspector, doesn't mince words regarding IAM union bosses' aims: "They're trying to spank us like unruly children, by having all of our jobs taken away." Credit: WCBD-TV (Charleston, S.C.)

Right to Work Offers Legislative as Well as Legal Assistance

(Source: July 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

In 2008, Dennis Murray went to work at Vought Aircraft Industries’ facility in North Charleston, S.C. The facility built a key structure, aft fuselage, for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner airplane.

At that time, International Association of Machinists (IAM/AFL-CIO) union bosses had recently acquired monopoly-bargaining privileges over Vought’s North Charleston employees, but no union contract was yet in place.

Later that year, IAM union chiefs obtained a contract that cemented their power, but excluded important medical, dental, short-term disability, and other benefits Vought workers had had when they were union-free.

Union officers sneakily secured approval of this contract, Mr. Murray charges, by notifying just a dozen of the facility’s 200 union members about the meeting at which it was to be considered. The union contract ended up getting ratified by a vote of 12-1!

Not surprisingly, Vought employees were angry about what the IAM brass had done. Their anger was soon exacerbated by layoffs lasting from three weeks to five months.

In July 2009, Boeing purchased Vought’s South Carolina operations for roughly a billion dollars.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Murray led a successful decertification campaign in which a 199-68 majority of workers, including many union members as well as nonmembers, voted out the IAM union.

Suit Charges IAM Bigwigs With Illegal Retaliation Against South Carolina Employees

In late 2009, Boeing decided to invest an additional billion dollars in North Charleston in order to build a new Dreamliner assembly plant there.

Boeing decisionmakers were undoubtedly motivated in part by the fact that a majority of their current employees in Right to Work South Carolina had rejected IAM monopoly bargaining, and thus would not participate in IAM union-instigated strikes.

Over the years, such strikes have cost the company billions of dollars.

Infuriated IAM union officials quickly sought to retaliate against Boeing and, even more so, the South Carolina employees who had spurned their counterproductive “representation” by filing a legally groundless complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

For well over a year, the IAM complaint went nowhere.

But, in a sign of the Obama Administration’s eagerness to do anything to intensify its Big Labor support as the 2012 presidential campaign approaches, in April the NLRB’s top lawyer backed up the IAM hierarchy, charging Boeing with commission of an “unfair labor practice.” He also moved to block Dreamliner production in North Charleston.

If President Obama-appointed NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon prevails in the case he instigated at IAM bosses’ behest, North Charleston Boeing workers like Dennis Murray will, in all likelihood, lose their jobs. But the workers are fighting back on several fronts.

One counterattack is an NLRB case filed June 15 by Mr. Murray, with the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys.

The suit charges officials of the IAM union and Seattle-based IAM Local 751 with abusing the legal process to deprive Boeing’s South Carolina employees of their jobs in retaliation for their decertifying their IAM local.

Mr. Murray put it this way to a reporter for WCBD-TV in Charleston: “[T]hey’ve looked down on us from day one, and now they’re trying to spank us like unruly children, by having all of our jobs taken away.”

Pending Legislation Would Rein in Abuses of Agenda-Driven NLRB Bureaucrats

In addition to Mr. Murray’s countersuit, he and two other South Carolina Boeing employees have with Right to Work attorneys’ help successfully filed for status as “intervenors” in the IAM/NLRB complaint against Boeing.

The Obama NLRB’s grudging admission that South Carolina employees have a direct stake in the outcome of the case is clearly a setback for Mr. Solomon’s efforts to bludgeon Boeing into submission.

In yet another effort to protect Boeing employees’ jobs, National Right to Work Committee lobbyists are now pushing for votes on legislation (S.964/H.R.1976) that would explicitly prohibit NLRB bureaucrats from ordering an employer to relocate jobs from one site to another.

Known as the Job Protection Act, this legislation now has 64 congressional sponsors.