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Labor Board Plans to Sue 2 States Over Union Rules (Read More…)

April 25, 2011
By Steven Greenhouse
The National Labor Relations Board has told state officials that it will soon file federal lawsuits against Arizona and South Dakota in seeking to invalidate those states’ constitutional amendments that prohibit private sector employees from choosing to unionize through a procedure known as card check.

In a letter sent on Friday, the labor board told those states that it would invoke the United States Constitution’s supremacy clause in asserting that the state constitutional amendments conflict with federal laws and are pre-empted by those laws. One federal official said the lawsuits would be filed in the next few days.

The Arizona and South Dakota constitutional amendments were promoted by various conservative groups worried that Congressional Democrats would pass legislation allowing unions to insist on using card check in organizing drives, meaning that an employer would have to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed pro-union cards. Under current law, private sector employers can insist that secret ballots be used when unions are trying to organize.

Unions like using card check because it makes it easier to win unionization campaigns. Organizers can gather signature cards quietly until they get a majority of workers, making it more difficult for an employer to mount an opposition campaign. Congressional Republicans blocked passage of the card-check bill.

In January, the labor board threatened to sue four states, including South Carolina and Utah, which also have constitutional amendments barring card check. But in a letter sent on Friday to the four states’ attorneys generals, N.L.R.B. officials said they were suing just two states to conserve legal resources.

The labor board’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said the government reserved “the right to initiate a suit against the other two states at the appropriate time.”

N.L.R.B. officials evidently hope that victories in the Arizona and South Dakota cases would serve as precedents to invalidate the South Carolina and Utah prohibitions.

In an interview, Tom Horne, Arizona’s attorney general, criticized the board’s planned suit, saying, “I find it shocking that they do not believe in the fundamental principle of democracy that people have a right to a secret ballot.” He said that while federal pre-emption might apply to laws passed by Congress, it should not apply to the labor board’s decision allowing card check to be used in some unionization campaigns.

South Dakota’s attorney general, Marty J. Jackley, said he respectfully disagreed with the board’s analysis, adding that he did not believe the agency “has the authority under circumstances like this to sue a state.”

Last week, the N.L.R.B. infuriated South Carolina officials when it announced that it was bringing a case against Boeing that seeks to press the company to move an airline production line from a nonunion plant in South Carolina to a unionized facility in Washington State. The labor board said that Boeing had unlawfully moved the production line, originally planned for Washington, to retaliate against unionized employees there for engaging in repeated strikes.

Posted by Admin on 04/26 at 08:01 AM
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Boeing-NLRB dispute could be long, costly fight (Read More…)

April 22, 2011
By John P. McDermott

The union-busting lawsuit targeting Boeing and its new South Carolina aircraft plant is likely to spur a protracted and costly legal battle that could wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it’s not expected to immediately affect the opening this summer of the $750 million assembly line in North Charleston.

The dispute between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board is shaping up to be one of the biggest union fights that fervently anti-union South Carolina has seen in recent years.

The federal agency’s acting general counsel sued the company Wednesday, saying Boeing set up its 787 Dreamliner production plant in North Charleston partly to retaliate against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for past strikes in Washington state.

The complaint seeks a court order forcing Boeing to establish the second 787 line in Everett, Wash., the unionized home of the company’s commercial airplane business.

Workers at the aerospace giant’s local plant are not represented by the IAMAW.

Boeing said this week that it will fight the lawsuit, calling the allegations frivolous. It also said the North Charleston plant would open on schedule.

The next step is a hearing June 14 in Seattle before an administrative law judge who works for the NLRB. The full board would then review that judge’s decision, a process that could take months.

If the ruling is contested, the case would be transferred to the federal appeals court system and possibly be submitted for consideration to the Supreme Court if necessary, legal experts said. That would eat up at least two more years.

“It conceivably could go to that,” said Dennis R. Nolan, the Webster Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Labor Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. “From Boeing’s perspective, there is no doubt this is a big enough deal to go ahead with it.”

If Boeing loses, the local 787 plant “in theory” could be closed, but Nolan stressed that the courts “have been reluctant to order extremely expensive remedies when less-expensive remedies could do the trick.”

Eric C. Schweitzer, an attorney with the Charleston office of Ogletree Deakins who represents management in labor disputes, said the Boeing lawsuit is “probably the biggest labor law case in the last 50 years.”

The lawsuit was triggered by a March 2010 complaint from the IAMAW, which has engaged in five strikes against Boeing between 1977 and 2008.

The NLRB said its investigation found that the company violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act in 2009 when it picked Charleston International Airport as the site of its second 787 assembly plant rather than expanding its existing factory in Everett.

Specifically, Boeing officials made “coercive statements” to its unionized employees starting in 2009 that the company would shift or had shifted production work away from the Puget Sound area because of labor walkouts, the agency said.

Posted by Admin on 04/22 at 05:18 PM
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