NLRB hearing: Legal maneuvers dominate Day One
SEATTLE — Legal maneuvering and political posturing dominated the first day of hearings in the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against the Boeing Co.
As expected, lawyers for Boeing filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which alleges that Boeing violated the rights of Machinists Union members when it moved 787 final assembly and fabrication work from Everett to Charleston, S.C.
Boeing’s lawyers denied the claim in court, and asked the judge to throw out the suit. Federal Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson gave attorneys for the NLRB and Machinists Union one week to respond to the Boeing motion; in the meantime, the legal teams for company, agency and union will sift through boxes of documents provided in response to subpoenas.
No major news is expected from the hearing until next week, which prompted Anderson to quip to a room full of reporters that “Perry Mason will not be here today.”
The fact that Boeing denied any wrong-doing didn’t surprise Paul Veltkamp, a steward for Machinists Union District Lodge 751 who is an inspector for Boeing on the 747 line in Everett and who attended the first day of the hearing.
“When I got pulled over for speeding, I denied it too,” Veltkamp quipped during an interview with a Fox Business News television reporter. “The fact is, Boeing broke the law, and this is the process for holding them accountable for breaking the law.”
The only surprise of the day came when William Kilberg, a lawyer Boeing has hired to pursue the case, told reporters that the company and the NLRB had reached a deal to settle the case in March – which would have been prior to the agency’s decision to file its complaint in the case.
District 751 and its attorneys flatly denied the suggestion that there had ever been a deal. “The union has offered to meet with a settlement judge, mediator or face to face and, every time Boeing has said no,” said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
The union is open to settlement talks, she added, but “Boeing is the one who broke the law and should be proposing a settlement offer.”
Judge Anderson urged Boeing to seek a settlement with the NLRB and the union, rather than wait for a legal process that could take up to five years.
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District 751 now represents 28,000 working men and women at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members used collective bargaining to reach contracts with 22 of those employers, without a single work day lost to strikes.
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