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Can Boeing Get Going – Legally

As most of us are aware, in recent years and on several occasions The Boeing Company has either picked up and moved some of its key operations outside of Washington or has threatened to do so in the face of union contract negotiations. Why has this been happening so often these days? Can Boeing just decide to move its operations or any part of them out of our State taking, in the process, thousands of jobs away from our residents?

Generally speaking, when it comes to moving management operations and management jobs that don’t involve unions, the law has virtually no limitations on what a company like Boeing can do to move completely, or in part, any of its management or non-union employees or operations. As long as the Company’s Board of Directors approves the decision, it’s a done deal. That’s precisely what happened in September 2001 when the Company moved its corporate headquarters in Seattle (where it existed for some 85 years) to Chicago. The law regarding such corporate relocation issues most certainly made the decision a breeze to go to the Windy City.

But moving operations and jobs for unionized workers involved in the day-to-day manufacturing of airplanes is another story. It’s not just the Board of Directors’ whim that makes a move out of our State possible – Boeing must follow national federal labor law in making its decision to move operations and jobs out of Washington. Boeing’s desires to take away jobs from our State’s residents are subject principles set forth in the National Labor Relations Act and the law developed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). These relocation issues come up often at Boeing on a piecemeal basis because Boeing has several labor contracts (collective bargaining agreements) that expire at different times for different unions representing workers like the Machinists or the Operating Engineers.

When mighty Boeing set out to build its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, it laid out big manufacturing plans for South Carolina, a right-to-work state where unions are not strong. Boeing put up a billion-dollar factory in Charleston, and South Carolina celebrated. In the summer of 2011, the NLRB said the huge new plant was illegal, built to punish union workers in Washington State for striking in the past and asked a judge to order Boeing production back to Puget Sound. While there was precedent in the NLRB’s decision to stop employers from relocation operations and jobs in order to frustrate their union affiliations and activities, the billion dollar magnitude of Boeing’s planned relocation of work was unprecedented. While the NLRB case was pending, Boeing worked out a deal through contract negotiations with one of its unions promising to provide work in Seattle revamping 737 jet production. As part of the negotiated deal, the union asked the NLRB to withdraw its case involving Boeing’s South Carolina issue because the contract negotiation process had resolved the loss of work issue in Seattle.

So “Can Boeing Get Going?” legally is really a loaded question. When it comes its management employees, the answer seems to be yes. However, when our union represented Puget Sound employees are the ones who stand to lose their stature and jobs, the issue may come up more frequently and is not as easy to answer and often is resolved by the collective bargaining process.

As most of us are aware, in recent years and on several occasions The Boeing Company has either picked up and moved some of its key operations outside of Washington or has threatened to do so in the face of union contract negotiations. Why has this been happening so often these days? Can Boeing just decide to move its operations or any part of them out of our State taking, in the process, thousands of jobs away from our residents?

Generally speaking, when it comes to moving management operations and management jobs that don’t involve unions, the law has virtually no limitations on what a company like Boeing can do to move completely, or in part, any of its management or non-union employees or operations. As long as the Company’s Board of Directors approves the decision, it’s a done deal. That’s precisely what happened in September 2001 when the Company moved its corporate headquarters in Seattle (where it existed for some 85 years) to Chicago. The law regarding such corporate relocation issues most certainly made the decision a breeze to go to the Windy City.

But moving operations and jobs for unionized workers involved in the day-to-day manufacturing of airplanes is another story. It’s not just the Board of Directors’ whim that makes a move out of our State possible – Boeing must follow national federal labor law in making its decision to move operations and jobs out of Washington. Boeing’s desires to take away jobs from our State’s residents are subject principles set forth in the National Labor Relations Act and the law developed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). These relocation issues come up often at Boeing on a piecemeal basis because Boeing has several labor contracts (collective bargaining agreements) that expire at different times for different unions representing workers like the Machinists or the Operating Engineers.

When mighty Boeing set out to build its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, it laid out big manufacturing plans for South Carolina, a right-to-work state where unions are not strong. Boeing put up a billion-dollar factory in Charleston, and South Carolina celebrated. In the summer of 2011, the NLRB said the huge new plant was illegal, built to punish union workers in Washington State for striking in the past and asked a judge to order Boeing production back to Puget Sound. While there was precedent in the NLRB’s decision to stop employers from relocation operations and jobs in order to frustrate their union affiliations and activities, the billion dollar magnitude of Boeing’s planned relocation of work was unprecedented. While the NLRB case was pending, Boeing worked out a deal through contract negotiations with one of its unions promising to provide work in Seattle revamping 737 jet production. As part of the negotiated deal, the union asked the NLRB to withdraw its case involving Boeing’s South Carolina issue because the contract negotiation process had resolved the loss of work issue in Seattle.

So “Can Boeing Get Going?” legally is really a loaded question. When it comes its management employees, the answer seems to be yes. However, when our union represented Puget Sound employees are the ones who stand to lose their stature and jobs, the issue may come up more frequently and is not as easy to answer and often is resolved by the collective bargaining process.

The material on this web site is for informational purposes only. We are not providing legal advice. Using this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between Pauley Law Group, PLLC and the user or browser. You should contact Pauley Law Group, PLLC directly at 206-684-9454 to obtain legal advice or legal representation.

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