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Latest News - August 2011

August 2, 2011
Boeing tries to limit “sunshine” in NLRB case
Source: The State
By: David Slade, The (Charleston) Post and Courier

Boeing Co. sought a sweeping court order Thursday to limit public access to documents and other materials the company considers confidential, as a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board inches forward.

The NLRB is pursuing a complaint from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accusing Boeing of illegally retaliating against the union for a series of strikes at Boeing plants in Washington state.

The lawsuit alleges the company built its secondary 787 Dreamliner aircraft plant in North Charleston instead of the Seattle area as a form of punishment. The company has denied that, saying it picked mostly nonunion South Carolina for the 3,800-worker factory based on several economic factors, including strike-related costs.

The litigation is in its early stages and could take years to resolve. At issue Thursday were competing proposals for dealing with confidential information, which could include materials already subpoenaed for the case.

Details of the tax breaks and other incentives offered to Boeing in South Carolina for building the Dreamliner factory in North Charleston could be among the information at issue.

The company is seeking a federal court order that would restrict public access, and in some cases access by the labor union, to information the aerospace giant deems confidential or “highly confidential” as proceedings move forward. It would be up to the NLRB or the union to challenge Boeing’s designations, under the company’s proposal.

The NLRB’s acting general counsel and the union have filed their own proposals, which generally would require Boeing to demonstrate the need for confidentiality on a case-by-case basis.

Another issue is whether confidentiality protections should be administered by a federal court, as Boeing wants, or by an administrative law judge, as the NLRB proposes.

“A protective order is unquestionably necessary to prevent harm to Boeing from the disclosure of subpoenaed materials containing trade secrets, as well as non-public proprietary business, commercial and financial information about Boeing in general and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner in particular,” Boeing said in its filing.

The machinists union says the request is overly broad and would prevent the union, the public and the media “from hearing the most critical evidence in the case.”

Reuters news service reported that Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson did not indicate Thursday when he would rule on the issue, but he suggested that a blanket order sealing documents was unlikely.

“If we have to do it document by document, we will,” Anderson said, according to Reuters.



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