The Boeing 787 or "Dreamliner"
A fight has broken out over Boeing opening a new plant to build the 787, the "Dreamliner," away from its facility in Washington state. Photo Credit: markjhandel/

A political row has developed concerning a North Carolina facility Boeing is opening to manufacture the Boeing 787, which is being called the “Dreamliner.” Boeing and its unionized employees have a somewhat tense history, and some within the organized labor ranks see the move as a slap in the face.

Government labor regulation board at center of spat

Members of Congress have waded into a growing feud between aircraft manufacturer Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board, according to MSNBC. The National Labor Relations Board, the government body that regulates relations between businesses and organized labor, issued a complaint against Boeing that claims Boeing violated labor laws by trying to open a new facility in South Carolina. South Carolina is a “right-to-work” state, which organized labor organizations feel are hostile to collective bargaining and other central tenets of organized labor. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said the NLRB was beginning to overstep its bounds, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is expected to announce a run for the presidency, said that NLRB funding should be pulled.

Latest battle between Boeing and union

The complaint by the NLRB, according to the Seattle Times, says Boeing decided to move production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to a South Carolina facility because the company wanted to ensure production wouldn’t be interrupted by strikes. Boeing employees in Washington state went on strike in 2005 and 2008. The suit between the NRLB and Boeing goes to court in the middle of June. The NRLB, acting on complaints filed by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers employed at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Wash., is alleging that Boeing built the facility in South Carolina to punish union workers for past strikes. Punishing workers for striking is illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act, which created the NLRB. Three employees from the South Carolina plant, according to the Wall Street Journal, have filed an injunction against the suit asserting that the NLRB suit against Boeing will result in the loss of jobs at the new plant, which is scheduled to open in July.

Hostility toward small share of U.S. workforce

South Carolina is a “right to work” state. Under right to work laws, businesses and unions cannot create what are called “union” or “agency shops,” wherein businesses mandate new employees join a union after being hired. Union membership is entirely voluntary in right to work states, but unions have less sway with business administration. Washington is not a right to work state, and Boeing employees in Washington must join the IAMAW whether they want to or not. The past few decades have had an all-time high of anti-union sentiment. Organized labor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounted for 12.4 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2003. Unions have been behind reforms in workplace safety, better wages and ending child labor.



Seattle Times:

Wall Street Journal:

Bureau of Labor Statistics Unionization by Country report (PDF-Requires Adobe Reader):

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