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NLRB Judge: Boeing Wrong For Withholding Job Relocation Information

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Ashley Gross
/
KPLU
SPEEA members tally votes in February 2013 on a contract with Boeing

Boeing violated labor law by not giving information to its engineers’ union regarding plans for moving jobs out of the Puget Sound region, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge has ruled.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company disagrees with the ruling and expects to appeal the decision.

Since 2013, the aerospace company has been moving work out of the region that had previously been done by members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). The union and company executives meet monthly as part of a joint workforce committee to discuss staffing and other issues, and it was during those meetings in 2013 and early 2014 when the company told union officials of plans to move 1,000 jobs to California as well as other possible job relocations.

When union officials asked a Boeing executive in February 2014 if more such announcements were coming, he said yes. So the union submitted a formal request to Boeing for documents relating to plans to “relocate or realign” work.

Boeing executive Yvonne Marx responded on April 2nd, 2014, that such studies are “highly confidential and often speculative business planning exercises, many of which never progress further than mere exploration.” She wrote that the company typically shares the studies “months in advance” with the union, “giving SPEEA more than ample time and data to sufficiently represent its employees’ interests.”

Jobs Moved To California

But then eight days later, the company told the union at another joint workforce meeting that it had completed a study and decided to move 1,000 more SPEEA-represented jobs to Southern California.

NLRB Administrative Law Judge Dickie Montemayor ruled that Boeing’s plans were far enough along to warrant disclosure to the union.

“It is patently obvious that the actions surrounding the moving of 1,000 jobs were not simply `ideas written on napkins,’ as (Boeing) suggests,” he wrote. He wrote that Boeing was trying to describe all of its plans as `possible’ when decisions had actually already been made.

The judge said Boeing has to turn over the plans and studies to the union that it should have provided when SPEEA made its request in March 2014.

“The company’s argument here, which the judge just tears apart, was that until a final, final decision has been made, Boeing has no obligation to share any information and that’s just a flat contradiction of the law,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA.

Tax Incentives

Goforth said he thinks the documents will show that Boeing had already made plans to move jobs out of state even as it pushed for a tax-extension package, which the legislature passed in a special session in November 2013.

“When Boeing was lobbying the governor and the legislature to extend the aerospace tax breaks, it was secretly planning to move jobs out of the state by the thousands,” Goforth said.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder disputes that characterization.

“When engineering workforce adjustments occur, we notify SPEEA leaders and staff about our plans,” he said in an emailed statement. “We also routinely provide notification of workforce changes to elected officials in Washington state.”

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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