The complaint filed against Boeing by the National Labor Relations Board is generating international news, and stirring talk in legal circles. The Pre-Law Program at the College of Charleston is presenting a lecture on the case, which concerns the company’s decision to build a manufacturing facility in North Charleston. Ellen Dannin, professor of law at Penn State University, will speak on Friday, October 28 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. in the Alumni Center of the School of Education, Health and Human Performance (corner of St. Philip and Wentworth Streets). Her talk is entitled, “No Harm, No Foul? Boeing and the National Labor Relations Act” and is free and open to the public.

The NRLB’s complaint was filed in April 2011 and critics, including South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsay Graham, and U.S. Representative Tim Scott, have charged that the complaint is a dangerous intrusion by a federal agency into a purely business decision.  In September 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill, sponsored by Scott, to strip the NLRB of any authority to seek to shut, transfer, or relocate a company’s operations “under any circumstances.”

The general counsel of the NLRB, however, has said that the complaint is “based on a careful investigation and a review of the facts under longstanding federal labor law.”  The National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, specifically prohibits an employer from retaliating against workers for exercising their right to strike.  The question in the case is whether Boeing, which decided to manufacture some of its planes in South Carolina, a right-to-work state with few union workers, was acting in retaliation for past strikes at unionized plants in Washington state.

Professor Dannin is a former trial attorney for the NLRB, and the author of Taking Back the Workers’ Law: How to Fight the Assault on Labor Rights (Cornell University Press, 2006).  She has written extensively on the history of the judicial interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act.  In this lecture, she will discuss the Boeing case in the light of the intended purposes of the NLRA, and the role these purposes can and should play in a free and democratic society.

“One of the most important functions of the Pre-Law Program is to foster intellectual discussion of current issues in the law,” said Larry Krasnoff, director of the program.  “There has been a great deal of discussion of this case in the local media, but most of that discussion has described the complaint as an unprecedented threat to businesses.  It is very important for the integrity of the debate that our students and the public get to hear from the other side, which has argued that the complaint is simply the enforcement of longstanding law.”

The talk is co-sponsored by the Master of Public Administration program, the Riley Center for Livable Communities, the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, and the Initiative for Public Choice and Market Process.  This is the second in a series of three lectures this semester on the rule of law, supported by a grant from the Enduring Questions program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information, contact Larry Krasnoff at or 843.953.4987.