By Matt Tomsic
Published Oct. 23, 2012
A National Labor Relations Board judge is set to rule any day on a complaint that argues a Boeing South Carolina supervisor threatened workers who associated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an NLRB spokeswoman said.
In March while at a service station in Sangaree, a Boeing supervisor told employees they could lose their jobs by associating with union supporters, according to a complaint filed by the NLRB. A month later, a human resources manager told employees they could not talk about the Machinists union during work hours.
The NLRB argued those statements interfere with employees exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, and an administrative law judge held a hearing in North Charleston last month.
“Boeing takes its obligations under the labor laws seriously,” said Candy Eslinger, a Boeing spokeswoman, in an emailed statement. “We maintain that the allegations are without merit and that Boeing does not unlawfully interrogate or threaten employees.”
In general, the NLRB can only try to restore the conditions that were present before the labor violation, said Nancy Cleeland, a spokeswoman with the NLRB. Remedies can range from re-hiring personnel who were wrongly fired or paying those personnel back-pay. Since those issues aren’t in the Boeing complaint, the ruling could require posting a notice about labor laws.
The ruling comes amid a push by the Machinists union to host informational meetings for Boeing South Carolina workers. The first meeting on Oct. 16 attracted between 75 and 100 employees, and their questions were general, focusing on legal rights, elections, contracts and employee’s at-will work status. Boeing employs about 6,100 at its North Charleston campus. A spokesman said the union would host more meetings.
Eslinger said any organizing comes down to economics, and the Machinists union has to collect dues from North Charleston workers to be viable.
“This is the same union who wanted to move our South Carolina work to Washington when they filed the (National Labor Relations Board charge),” Eslinger said, referring to the charge that led to an NLRB complaint. It argued the new assembly line constituted an unfair labor practice and Boeing’s decision to expand in South Carolina was retaliation against the union in Washington state for past strikes.
“And it’s the same union that made the disparaging comments about the quality of South Carolina workers during that same time,” she said.