In response to claims filed against the airplane manufacturer, a congressional committee field hearing will be held right here in North Charleston.
Scheduled for 12 p.m. on Fri., June 17, the hearing takes place at Charleston County Council Chambers, Lonnie Hamilton Bldg., 4045 Bridge View Dr (click here for map).
Last year, Boeing moved manufacturing of its 787 jets to N Charleston away from another facility in Washington State.
In the earlier year of 2008, union-represented workers at the Washington facility objected to contract negotiations in which Boeing sought terms that would prevent any type of labor strike for a 10-year period.
The Washington facility employees allege that Boeing’s decision to move production to N. Charleston was only in retaliation. Emails between Boeing’s executives at the time add confirmation to that allegation, as well.
Adding relativity to the circumstance in South Carolina, shortly after her election last November, Gov. Nikki Haley hired Catherine Templeton as director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. In doing so, Haley cited Templeton’s history of anti-union stance as impetus. She also praised South Carolina’s “right to work” status, which restrains labor unions.
In response, the International Association of Machinists and the state AFL-CIO filed suit in January, requesting court order upon Haley and Templeton to refrain from interfering with the interests and activities of organized labor.
By April, the National Labor Review Board took interest in this development, and filed its own legal charges against Boeing, which will be the focus of Friday’s hearing. Boeing’s move to N. Charleston was only in retaliation to the actions of its unionized employees in Washington, NLRB says.
Witnesses scheduled to appear at the hearing are Gov. Nikki Haley; state Attorney General Alan Wilson; Phil Miscimarra, labor attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; Lewis Gossett, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance; Neil Whitman, president of Dunhill Staffing Systems; Cynthia Ramaker, a Boeing employee; and Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel for NLRB.
To be chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), three congressmen from South Carolina – Reps. Trey Gowdy, Tim Scott and Joe Wilson, all affiliated with the Republican Party – are also to attend the hearing.
All three SC congressmen have spoken openly in support of Boeing. However, retired USC professor Hoyt Wheeler says their statements are improper.
"It is really horribly, terribly improper and really a corruption of the system for all this political pressure to be brought to bear for a federal agency to try to get it to back off from prosecuting what they believe is a violation of the law," Wheeler, who taught collective bargaining and now works as a labor arbitrator, told Charleston City Paper.
"One can argue the merits either way, but all this hullabaloo and political pressure ...(are) really over the top, and I think it's political opportunism."
The upcoming hearing could be just the first step in a very long process. Following Friday’s procedures, it could be months before any decision is made, says NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland. Boeing has ample measures of appeal, too, Cleeland says.
Because Friday is only the first step, initial support for labor rights needs to be shown upfront and immediately, says Donna DeWitt, chair of the state’s AFL-CIO.
DeWitt encourages labor supporters to attend, and will host a press conference in the building’s lobby at 11:30 a.m. prior to the hearing.
Anyone with questions about the hearing can contact the AFL-CIO at 803-926-8860.
Of other relativity to the board complainant, NLRB contacted state Attorney General Wilson in January on claims that a recent amendment to the state constitution violated the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, and by restricting formats of union formation in South Carolina.