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Obama weighs in on NLRB Boeing case

President Obama weighed in on the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) legal complaint against airplane manufacturer Boeing for the first time Wednesday, saying he hoped the company and union officials could resolve their differences.

The NLRB has alleged Boeing chose to locate a new plant to build 787 airplanes in South Carolina instead of Washington state in retaliation for strikes by unionized workers there. Obama addressed the case gingerly Wednesday, saying he didn't have all the facts.

But the president said he hoped it could be resolved quickly.

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"It's an independent agency and it's going before a judge, so I don't want to get into all the details of the case," he said during a news conference. "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.

"The airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage ... I want to make sure that we keep it," he added.

Obama has been hammered by business groups and Republicans for the case, which they have argued is an attack on so-called "right-to-work" states where union rules are less strict. Recently, his nominee for Commerce Secretary 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," Commerce nominee John Bryson, who is a member of the Boeing board of directors, said during a Senate hearing this month.

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 it intends to build there in Seattle. 

A judge in Seattle heard the opening arguments in the case last week on a Boeing motion to dismiss.

The case is expected to last several weeks.