Judge denies Boeing motion to dismiss NLRB lawsuit

A judge on Thursday denied Boeing's attempt to have a National Labor Relations Board case against it dismissed.

The NLRB has accused Boeing of choosing to locate a new plant in South Carolina instead of Washington state in retaliation for strikes by unionized workers there. 

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Boeing sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the NLRB's claim was unprecedented, but Seattle Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson ruled that the case should go on.

"Having considered the entirety of the respondent's motion and found and concluded as noted above, I find that the motion is without merit and should be denied in its entirety," Anderson wrote in a 19 page ruling.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said Thursday the company still expects to prevail in the case, which has drawn national attention as it has become cause célèbre among Republicans, who say it shows the Obama administration is too cozy with labor unions.

“The judge’s ruling is not unexpected; motions to dismiss are rarely granted prior to trial," Dern said in a statement.  "As we’ve said before, the company expects to prevail in federal court on this matter, but not before lengthy and costly legal proceedings within the NLRB and, ultimately, federal court.”

Boeing opened its new plant in Charleston, S.C., where it plans to build 787 airplanes, this month. However, if the NLRB complaint is ultimately successful, the company could be forced to build the planes in Seattle instead.

The case before Anderson is expected to last several weeks.

In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Republicans have sought to ratchet up pressure on the administration to disavow the case. They argue it is an attack on so-called "right-to-work" states where union rules are less strict.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) threatened to place a hold on Obama's nominee to be the next Commerce secretary, businessman John Bryson, who is a member of Boeing's board of directors.

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Bryson said he did not think the case was "the right judgment."

"It seemed like such an unexpected kind of legal proceeding that none of us on the board – we thought we were doing the right thing for the country and we looked hard at maintaining the jobs in Washington and expanding the jobs elsewhere for the benefit of the country and never thought for example of putting those jobs outside the U.S," Bryson said during a Senate hearing this month.

Obama seemed to be critical of the lawsuit in his first remarks about it this week.

"We can't afford to have labor and management fighting all the time at a time when we're competing against China and Germany and other countries who want to sell goods all around the world," he said during a news conference Wednesday. "The airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage ... I want to make sure that we keep it."

The White House had previously declined to comment beyond saying that the NLRB was an "independent agency," which Obama repeated Wednesday.