Dashing off a quick note here, since we’re still on hiatus.
IAM 751 successfully achieved a complaint and hearing from the National Labor Relations Board filed a year ago against Boeing, alleging that the October 2009 decision to establish 787 production line 2 in Charleston (SC) was retaliation for the 58-day strike in August-September 2008. Boeing, in October 2009, was clear that it wanted stability and a long-term contract to keep Line 2 in Seattle, but that the union made unacceptable demands in the form of a guarantee of future airplane work in Seattle; and Boeing neutrality in all IAM efforts to organize labor at any Boeing plant nationwide. Boeing wouldn’t agree to either demand.
We wrote at the time we thought those two demands were unreasonable and in the case of the production guarantee totally impractical–the latter if for no other reason than Seattle’s Puget Sound region lies in several earthquake fault zones. All you have to do is look at the recent Japanese earthquake (forget about the tsunami effect) and aftershocks, and you can see why it’s prudent for any company management to have the ability to look at production diversification to mitigate natural disaster risk. (Seattle also is in proximity to several dormant, but not extinct, volcanoes.)
As to the NLRB complaint, 751 as you would expect is happy its assertions have been validated enough to go to a hearing. Boeing, as you would expect, completely disagrees with the action and calls it without merit.
We’re not a lawyer and we don’t know labor law and we’re not going to attempt to discuss the merits. But we’re big on practicality and from this standpoint, the NLRB action is completely meaningless.
We compare with with the WTO Airbus-Boeing complaints and actions. Remember, the WTO panel findings over illegal subsidies are just that: panel findings. The Airbus subsidies complaint finding it under appeal; the Boeing finding is going to be appealed. After these appeals are determined, the WTO ruling body has to accept them, modify them or reject them. (Acceptance is likely.) Then negotiations begin to resolve them, and these have to fail before sanctions may be authorized. It will be years to resolve these issues.
Likewise, with the NLRB complaint, hearing has to take place. Even if one assumes Boeing loses, the company will appeal and if necessary all the way up to the US Supreme Court. In the meantime, Charleston Line 2 proceeds according to plan.
Boeing has more than $1bn invested in Charleston; it’s not going to give that up. Some sort of accord would be found with the union in the event the US Supreme Court found against Boeing.
Furthermore, a second 787 line is already planned for Everett; it’s called the Surge Line, which is, for all practical purposes, going to become permanent as Boeing ramps up production beyond the 10/mo that will be necessary to catch up on delays and provide new production slots for repeat and future customers.
Bottom line: the NLRB complaint gives 751 a good set of talking points and, at least for now, a moral victory. But whatever the merits, the practical effect is nil.
Back to hiatus….