SC Officials Square Off With Federal Gov't Over Boeing
South Carolina officials jumped quickly to defend Boeing as the company faces a federal labor complaint from the National Labor Relations Board. The federal agency alleges Boeing coerced and threatened its union workers in Washington state when it decided to build a $750 million airplane production plant in Charleston. Less than five percent of South Carolina workers are in a union. That's partly because it's a right to work state, which means people can't be forced to join a union where they work. That was a key selling point for Boeing in its decision to open a plant in Charleston. But the federal government says Boeing broke the law because the move was in retaliation against union workers for striking at Boeing's main plant in Washington state. Labor laws prohibit employers from discriminating against workers because of union membership or interfering in the right to strike. The National Labor Relations Board has asked the court to force Boeing to take back to Washington all the airplane production the company planned to start in Charleston this year. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says the complaint is an assault on the state's right to work laws. "I would respectfully encourage the president to get his unelected bureaucrats off the backs of our businesses, off the backs of our employees and allow us to continue to improve the economy," said Haley at a press conference in Charleston on Thursday. South Carolina's congressional delegation and state legislative leaders are also condemning the action against Boeing. A complaint from the union representing Boeing's Washington workers sparked the investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. Boeing calls the claims of discrimination and anti-union retaliation "frivolous" and says it decided to open a non-union plant in South Carolina because the union's demands would have hampered Boeing's business. The company says none of the union workers in Washington have lost their jobs as a result of the decision, because the South Carolina plant is an expansion of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner production. The union and the National Labor Relations Board say comments made by Boeing executives to employees and the media make clear the decision was motivated by past strikes and the possibility of more at the Washington plant. A hearing on the suit is set for June 14 in Seattle.