Boeing: Labor board trying to accomplish what union couldn't in negotiations

"He seeks to change the law so that what a union cannot achieve at the bargaining table it will be able to achieve through the Board," he continued.

That is not the NLRB's job, Luttig told lawmakers Thursday.

"The act simply does not provide the Board or the courts with the authority to 'assess the relative economic power of the adversaries in the bargaining process and to deny weapons to one party or the other because of [the Board’s] assessment of that party’s bargaining power,' he said.

The NLRB has argued that Boeing wants to build the plant in South Carolina in retaliation for labor strikes in Washington state. Republicans say the lawsuit shows the Obama administration is too cozy with unions, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has called it an assault on capitalism.  

Luttig told the Senate panel Thursday that the new plant would not have any effect on the existing employees it has in Washington state. 

"Far from any IAM [International Association of Machinists] member suffering an adverse employment action from Boeing’s decision to place the second line in Charleston, Boeing has already hired new employees and plans to hire additional employees in the Puget Sound area as the rate of production of the 787 and other airplanes increases over time," he said. "The new employees will become members of the IAM bargaining unit in the Puget Sound area."  

The White House has not commented on the NLRB lawsuit, an apparent effort to distance President Obama from the controversy.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the matter is between Boeing and the NLRB.

"Well, it’s obviously been in the news, so we are aware of it, but I would refer any questions about it to the NLRB because it is an independent agency, and we do not get involved in particular enforcement matters of independent agencies," Carney told reporters at the White House.

Haley and several Republican senators have criticized Obama for not weighing in on whether he supports the NLRB effort to block Boeing's new plant in South Carolina.