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Boeing conducted unfair practices against U.S. engineers: labor board

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young
The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. National Labor Relations Board said on Thursday that Boeing Co committed unfair labor practices against its unionized engineers near Seattle and in Portland, Oregon, when it photographed and videotaped workplace marches in 2012.

The federal decision required Boeing to "cease and desist" and among other measures to post within the next two weeks a notice saying employees are entitled to join a union and participate in union activities and that Boeing won't videotape, photograph or watch union activities, or "create an impression that we are watching your union activities."

The decision by Administrative Law Judge Gerald Etchingham also requires Boeing to rescind its security and management policies that call for photographing and videotaping rallies and marches in or near the factory.

"This ruling is a searing indictment of the illegal intimidation tactics Boeing uses against its own employees," said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), which filed the charges against Boeing.

Boeing said it was disappointed by the decision and disagreed with the board's rationale for the ruling.

"We don't believe it's supported by a significant amount of case law," said Tim Healy, Boeing labor spokesman.

He said Boeing was evaluating whether to appeal and whether to comply with the two-week deadline for posting notice to employees.

"That gives us some time to evaluate what our options are," Healy said.

The NLRB said the violations occurred during contract talks in 2012 when Boeing observed and recorded "peaceful solidarity walks or marches in and around" Boeing plants in Renton and Everett, Washington, and Portland.

In August 2012, as the SPEEA members began wearing red shirts on Wednesdays to show solidarity, Boeing updated its rules for union marches to include videotaping.

The rules, used previously with machinists union members, told security officers not to tape peaceful marches, the NLRB said.

But by September 2012, Boeing had removed the instruction not to record peaceful pickets, the NRLB said. Other Boeing rules required managers to call for "videotape support if a workplace march occurred."

The ruling detailed exchanges between union members and security officers at the marches. Union members testified that Boeing's security officers said they were taping "all union activities." Boeing's security officers testified that they said they were taping the marches "to document safety."

Etchingham said that "in significant instances, reliable documentary evidence fails to support accounts provided by (Boeing's) key witnesses which weighs against such accounts being credible."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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