In order to accommodate demand, Boeing sought certain assurances from International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, District 751 ("IAM District 751"), the machinists union in Washington state. Boeing proposed a controversial 10-year, no-strike contract to the union. This extraordinary demand - prohibiting union employees from engaging in the protected, legal activity of striking - was undoubtedly the result of decades of tumultuous relations between Boeing and its workers. Since 1977, IAM District 751 has gone on strike five times, including a 58-day walkout three years ago that cost Boeing an estimated $2 billion . IAM District 751 rejected the contract and sought a less-radical agreement to manufacture the Dreamliner.
On October 28, 2009, Boeing announced that they would move much of the Dreamliner construction to a brand new plant in South Carolina, pointing to labor stability as a key factor in the decision. South Carolina is a so-called "right-to-work" state where labor costs are lower, unions are virtually non-existent and workers are generally more compliant.  Boeing spent about $1 billion building the South Carolina plant and hired approximately 1,000 workers, and the new plant will begin constructing Dreamliners this August. 
On April 20, 2010, the NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Boeing had violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act because its statements to IAM District 751 were coercive to employees and its actions were motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strikes and to chill future strike activity. IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski summarized the complaint: "By opening the line in Charleston, Boeing tried to intimidate our members with the idea that the company would take away their work unless they made concessions at the bargaining table. But the law is clear: American workers have a right to pursue collective bargaining, and no company – not even Boeing – can threaten or punish them for exercising those rights." 
Labor law precedent clearly prohibits "runaway shops," where a company shuts down a unionized plant and re-opens a non-union one somewhere else to avoid or punish the union. In this sense, removing available work in retaliation for legally protected activity is prohibited, just like discrimination based on religion, race or gender. Nevertheless, the board has historically given companies a great deal of latitude in making capital decisions and often defers to the rational business judgment of an employer. Boeing General Counsel Lutting has stated "Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region."  Boeing also notes that the Washington state plants remain active on some Dreamliner production and the majority of other Boeing projects, with the South Carolina plant simply an expansion.
The ramifications of this case are potentially massive and the political rhetoric is already heated. Many Democrats supporting the union and Republicans supporting Boeing are embracing the litigation as a national referendum on the future of unions even beyond what has happened this past year in Wisconsin and other states. While the case is far from over and many of the legal arguments are nuanced (for example, had Boeing simply opened the South Carolina plant without proposing the 10-year, no-strike contract to IAM District 751 there would likely be no violations of labor law), the fact of the matter is that despite Boeing's highly-touted record of creating jobs and maintaining a strong workforce in the United States, no company above the law and Boeing will likely have to argue the merits of its decision-making for several years.
1. Norris, G.; Thomas, G.; Wagner, M., and Forbes Smith, C. (2005). Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Flying Redfined. Aerospace Technical Publications International. ISBN 0-9752341-2-9.
2. Boeing. "Commercial Airplanes - 787 Dreamliner - Background." Press Release. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/787family/background.htm
7. http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Boeing-illegally-put-second-787-line-in-S-C-1345345.php8. http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Boeing-illegally-put-second-787-line-in-S-C-1345345.php