Did Boeing move 1,000 jobs to get back at union?

A judge is holding hearings in Seattle to determine if Boeing can open a production line in South Carolina instead of Washington state.

Boeing insists it has the right to do it, but the National Labor Relations Board calls it illegal. And at least 1,000 jobs depend on the outcome.

The tug-of-war over Dreamliner jobs
Pictures: The battle for Boeing Dreamliner jobs

"Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge shared the story of 55 year-old Lee Gaylor. Gaynor never thought she'd be struggling just to survive. Unemployed for a year, she left her home in Tennessee to live in a trailer in South Carolina. She moved there to learn to build Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner in a new $1 billion plant in North Charleston.

Gaylor said, "I never thought I would do anything like this, but I can deal with it."

But Gaylor's job could be shut down before it even begins if the union representing Boeing's Washington State workers has its way. The hearings in Seattle will settle whether the company violated labor laws by taking jobs away from union workers by bringing them to South Carolina, a non-union state.

Wragge noted that, at the CBS News Town Hall meeting broadcast Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, "We are fighting the unions every step of the way. We are a strong right to work state and going to stay that way. That's what gives a company confidence to say, 'This is a state where we can make money.'"

Christopher Corson, general counsel for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, told CBS News, "The problem is those jobs will be taken out of Everett, Washington, where employees are currently working in those jobs and those employees need those jobs, too."

Union leaders say the company relocated the jobs to punish its workers for a 58-day strike in 2008. As proof, they point to what Boeing executive vice president Jim Albaugh told the Seattle Times last year.

Albaugh said in a recorded interview, "The overriding factor was not the business climate and it was not the wages we're paying people today. It was that we can't afford to have a work stoppage every three years."

Boeing says South Carolina has lower costs, a world-class port, and that the company can move operations where it chooses.

But if the hearing finds that Boeing relocated the jobs out of retaliation, it will have to move all the Dreamliner jobs to Washington.

As for Gaylor, she says she just wants to work, adding, "Those are not my problems."

On "The Early Show," Wragge said the issue has sparked a major political debate.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shared their positions on this case on the broadcast.

Harkin said a company can locate wherever it wants, but it cannot retaliate against workers who exercise their rights.

"I don't know whether (Boeing) did or not (retaliate) and that's the crux of this problem," Harkin said. "There is an administrative procedure, a judicial procedure to go through to determine whether or not that happened, and that is happening right now."

Harkin added he wanted to clarify one point. He says there are other remedies for this issue than closing the plant in South Carolina and moving the jobs back to Washington State.

But Harkin said the bottom-line is, "A company should not be allowed to retaliate against people for exercising their legal rights and then move jobs away because of that."

Harkin added, "They can (move) for a lot of other reasons, but they can't do it because of an illegal reason. And that's what the court needs to find out, was that done or not. We don't know yet."

But DeMint says the U.S. should be celebrating Boeing for its job creation.

He said, "They added 2,000 union jobs in Washington State and more than 1,000 jobs in South Carolina at a time when we're begging for jobs. Again, Boeing has done the right thing. Boeing made an economic decision; it was not retaliation, if we've properly represented what they've said. They've talked to the union about the cost of stoppages. They've got a great new airplane, they need two production lines, and they decided to build a second one in South Carolina. No union jobs in Washington State were affected. In fact, I think the profitability that will come from Boeing will actually help in creating union jobs in Washington State."

He added, "This is being done by an unelected bureaucrat here in Washington. They allowed Boeing to finish a billion-dollar facility over two years, hire over 1,000 workers, and then they decided to come in and say, 'Stop.' What this is going to do to other companies who want to locate anywhere in our country, what that means is more jobs are going to locate overseas, so they don't have to hassle with this kind of government."

Co-anchor Chris Wragge said, "Senator Harkin ... you're talking about the retaliation. We're not positive it was retaliation, that's what these hearings will hopefully (determine). There is no net loss of jobs here. So why is there this debate, especially at a time when this country needs jobs?"

"Well, obviously, this procedure should go forward. My good friend Jim DeMint says it's (an) unelected bureaucrat. That's like saying all of our Supreme Court judges, our district judges, our circuit court judges are unelected. Of course they are. And that's why we have a judicial process. I don't know whether Boeing violated the law or not. All I know is that the general counsel, after investigating this for many, many months, decided there was enough evidence to go to an administrative law judge to have this decided. Now, again, after the administrative law judge makes his or her decision, it then goes to the National Labor Relations Board, from there to the circuit court, and from there to the Supreme Court. What Mr. DeMint and some of these corporate powers are trying to do is to interfere with that and bully these people into making a decision that may not be the right decision. They want to interfere politically in the judicial process and that's wrong."

Wragge asked DeMint if he could say his state isn't providing a way for companies to circumvent the unions. "It sounds though from your governor who says we are fighting the unions every step of the way that there could be an element of that there," Wragge pointed out."

DeMint responded, "What iwe're fighting for is a worker's right to join a union or not join a union. There are 22 states like South Carolina that are right-to-work states."

He added, "Unfortunately, what the senator has said, is this is not a real judge. This is an acting general counsel who is appointed by (Presidnet) Obama and he has not been confirmed by the Senate, as judges should be. This is not a good legal process. This is bully and intimidation and we've got to stop it."

Harkin said through DeMint's last statement about judges, "Not true. Not true."

When given a chance to reply, Harkin said, "The general counsel is not appointed by President Obama. He's been there for 30 years. OK?"

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.