By Keith Laing - 06/10/11 03:48 PM EDT
Airplane manufacturing company Boeing celebrated the opening of its new 787 plant in South Carolina Friday, despite an ongoing lawsuit the National Labor Relations Board about the company's decision not to locate the facility in Washington state.
The NLRB has sued Boeing, alleging the company decided to build the facility in South Carolina in retaliation for labor strikes by workers at its Puget Sound plant near Seattle. Republicans have made the lawsuit a political issue by saying it shows President Obama's administration is anti-business and beholden to unions.
The company is contesting the NLRB lawsuit.
But Friday was not about that, Gayla Keller of Boeing said.
"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 and close the South Carolina final assembly and delivery facility, we are confident that Boeing will prevail against the National Labor Relations Board complaint," Keller said in an email to reporters. "But today for us is not about that dispute, but instead we want to celebrate the opening of the South Carolina final assembly facility, as well as the continued outstanding work by our employees in the Puget Sound as they build the world’s best commercial aircraft.
Keller called the plant opening "an important day for American manufacturing" because the 787 was "America's next great export."
The plant where the planes will be built has emerged as an issue in the Republican presidential campaign as hopefuls eager to curry favor in South Carolina, a crucial early primary state, have criticized it in national forums.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney compared it, for intrusiveness, to the federal healthcare law that is anathema to conservative activists, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called it "preposterous" in a debate in South Carolina and penned an op-ed about it in The National Review.
Additionally, before his campaign lost its senior staff, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on "Meet the Press" the lawsuit would punish "every right-to-work state."
The White House has said Obama will not comment on the lawsuit because the NLRB is an "independent agency," but other Democrats have begun swinging to the panel's defense.