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U.S. Labor Board Urged by States to Drop Boeing Complaint

The National Labor Relations Board should “withdraw immediately” a complaint against Boeing Co. that alleges the company retaliated against union employees, attorneys general in nine states said in a letter.

The board’s action, citing Boeing’s decision to open a 787 aircraft assembly line in South Carolina, is an “assault” on the ability of the states to create jobs, according to the letter released today.

“Our states are trying to emerge from one of the worst economic collapses since the Depression,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote in the letter signed by eight colleagues. “Your complaint further impairs an economic recovery.”

The board last week said Boeing chose South Carolina, a state that bans labor agreements that require workers to join a union, over keeping the work in Washington state because it was “motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strike and chill future strike activity.” Boeing executives had said they were concerned about strikes by employees, according to the complaint.

Wilson and the attorneys general from Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arizona urged the board to “cease this attack on our right to work, our states’ economies, and our jobs.”

Assembly Lines

The board’s complaint said Boeing should be forced to open a Washington state assembly line after violating workers’ rights by building the facility in South Carolina. The company, the world’s biggest aerospace company, decided in 2009 to build the new assembly line.

The complaint doesn’t seek to close Boeing’s plant in South Carolina and both parties will have a chance to present evidence at a scheduled hearing, Nancy Cleeland, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The complaint has nothing to do with state right-to-work laws, which ban certain types of employer-union agreements and are expressly permitted” by national labor law, she said.

Boeing declined to comment, company spokesman Tim Neale said.

Boeing’s choice of South Carolina marked its first departure from the Puget Sound hub where it has built all its commercial jets. Relations with the Machinists union have been strained by four strikes since 1989, including the most recent, two-month walkout at the end of 2008.

A hearing on the labor board’s recommendation, which was issued by its acting general counsel, was scheduled for June 14 before an administrative law judge in Seattle.

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