Boeing fires back over suit with letter

Boeing Co. plans to start assembling 787 Dreamliners at its new $750 million North Charleston factory this summer.

Instead of filing a routine legal brief, Boeing Co. has fired off a scathing letter to the government lawyer who is suing to move its 787 line from North Charleston to Washington state over alleged labor law violations.

J. Michael Luttig, general counsel for the aerospace giant, called for National Labor Relations Board acting general counsel Lafe E. Solomon to withdraw his complaint.

In a six-page letter released by Boeing on Tuesday, Luttig lashed out at Solomon, saying parts of the April 20 lawsuit and some public statements Solomon made about the company are inaccurate or have been taken out of context.

"You have a responsibility to correct these misquotations and mischaracterizations for the public record and also for purposes of the complaint you have filed," he wrote.

Luttig, a former federal judge who was named as a possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee in 2005, went on to say Solomon has "done a grave disservice to The Boeing Company, its executives and shareholders, and to the 160,000 Boeing employees worldwide."

The NLRB lawsuit stemmed from a complaint filed in March 2010 by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has engaged in five strikes against Boeing between 1977 and 2008.

Solomon's agency said its investigation found that the company was trying to punish the union when it chose in 2009 to "transfer" some of its 787 production from the Seattle area to a nonunion site at Charleston International Airport.

Luttig denied that was the case, saying Boeing built the new $750 million plant from scratch and did not shift any existing manufacturing work or jobs away from the Pacific Northwest. He said Boeing considered multiple business factors in deciding where to set up the new line, including the risk and potential costs of future labor strikes.

Luttig also said that Solomon repeatedly told Boeing officials that he would not take any action in the matter if the company agreed not to lay off any 787 workers in the Seattle area. The labor agency has "abandoned the agreement," the Boeing lawyer wrote.

NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said the lawsuit is "an early step" in the process.

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She added that a hearing scheduled for June 14 in Seattle in front of a judge employed by the federal labor agency is the most appropriate venue to address the merits of the case.

"The complaint indicates that an investigation of charges brought by the Machinists' union found sufficient evidence to present the allegations to an administrative law judge," Cleeland said in a statement Wednesday.

Boeing plans to build seven Dreamliners a month at its main manufacturing hub in Everett, Wash.

The North Charleston line, which is set to open this summer, is designed to produce three 787s a month by late 2013.

Boeing has said it has hired at least 1,000 workers to help ramp up local production of the 787, with a promise to the state to add 2,800 more workers over the next few years.