- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2011

Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer, made a bold move Friday, defying the National Labor Relations Board, when it opened a new $750 million assembly plant in South Carolina.

The NLRB is fighting Boeing’s decision to open the second plant for 787 Dreamliner construction in North Charleston, S.C., instead of in Washington state, where the other final assembly plant is located.

The agency argues Boeing is retaliating against workers in Washington state to punish them for past strikes by building the plant in a right-to-work state, where unions are not as prominent.

But Boeing says it will keep the original Washington state plant open and continue to send the majority of its 787 Dreamliner business there. In fact, the company has added more than 2,000 jobs there since the 2009 decision to open a second production plant elsewhere.

“While there’s been a lot in the news recently about government attempts to force Boeing to place the second final assembly line in Puget Sound (Wash.) and close the South Carolina final assembly and delivery facility, we are confident that Boeing will prevail against the National Labor Relations Board complaint,” Boeing spokesperson Sean McCormack said in a statement. “But today for us is not about that dispute, but instead we want to celebrate the opening of the South Carolina final assembly facility.”

NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said the agency is taking the opening in stride.

“We expected it,” she said. “That’s what they have said all along they were going to do.”

The dispute will come to a head on Tuesday, when Boeing and the NLRB are scheduled to start a hearing about the matter in Seattle. The NLRB filed a complaint about Boeing in April.

Boeing broke ground in November 2009 for its final assembly and delivery plant in North Charleston. The 1.2-million-square-foot plant will bring thousands of jobs to North Charleston, Boeing announced. More than 9,000 jobs were created for the construction phase, and the site will employ more than 4,000 workers once it gets up and running at full capacity.

The next few weeks will be used for training, and then Boeing will begin final assembly on the 787 Dreamliner in July. The first Dreamliner is expected in the first quarter of 2012. By 2013, they plan to produce three planes per month, to compliment the seven planes per month that the Washington state plant already makes.

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