Union fights Boeing plan to close NLRB hearing

SEATTLE — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 promised to fight a sweeping request by the Boeing Co. to keep the public – including union members – from hearing important evidence in the National Labor Relations Board complaint regarding Boeing’s decision to transfer its second 787 assembly line.

Among the things Boeing doesn’t want the public to know are specifics about the tax incentive package it’s getting from South Carolina, and even some details from Project Olympus, the 2003 deal with Washington state that ensured the 787 would be built in Everett.

“We suspect the documents Boeing wants to keep secret prove that Boeing executives didn’t make a legitimate business decision to transfer work from Everett to Charleston, but instead broke the law by moving because of union activity here,” said District 751 spokeswoman Connie Kelliher.  “It doesn’t surprise us that Boeing would want to keep any incriminating documents secret, but our laws don’t permit secret tribunals.”

The federal administrative law judge in the case will hear arguments on Boeing’s requested order at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Nakamura Federal Courthouse, 1010 Fifth Ave. in Seattle.

The company’s lawyers have filed court documents asking for the power to clear the courtroom whenever these and other topics they don’t want discussed come up.

“It’s very unusual in this type of proceeding to try to restrict public access in this way,” Kelliher said. “Clearing the courtroom is a very dramatic step that just isn’t justified in this case.”

Boeing’s lawyers also want the judge to excuse the company from having to turn over key documents in the case related to its decision-making, and to restrict who would get to see the documents it does turn over.

Among those documents are studies comparing the cost of moving the second 787 line to Charleston with the cost of leaving it at Everett, and also documents showing what the company expects to spend to shut down a temporary third assembly line in Everett.

“If Boeing succeeds with this order, our members won’t have the right to hear the facts Boeing’s leaders considered when they decided to take their work away, so they can judge for themselves whether it really was a smart business decision or merely retaliation for our past union activity,” Kelliher said.

Companies do have a legal right to withhold trade secrets in trials, but what Boeing is asking for goes far beyond the commonsense definition of reasonable, she said.

“We believe South Carolina and Washington state taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” she said. “We also think Boeing has an obligation to shareholders and the investor community to disclose the facts behind its decision to spend billions on the new South Carolina facilities.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers 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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2 Responses to “Union fights Boeing plan to close NLRB hearing”
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  1. […] update on the National Labor Relations Board’s hearing on a complaint that Boeing violated the rights of District 751 members when it announced it was moving the second 787 line from Everett toSouth […]

  2. […] July 28, Boeing lawyers had argued before the judge that they should be able to block the public at large – and Machinists Union representatives in particular – from being able to see many of the key documents that have been subpoenaed as evidence in the […]

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