By Eric Kulisch
The House Republican agenda this fall for creating jobs includes
passing legislation targeted at a recent ruling by the National Labor
Relations Board that attempts to block Boeing Corp. from locating an
aircraft production line in South Carolina.
Boeing recently opened the plant in North Charleston and has hired 1,000 workers.
The NLRB alleges Boeing violated federal labor law because its
decision to transfer some production from Washington to South Carolina
was made to counter the influence of the machinists union, which
orchestrated a damaging strike in 2008. There have been three strikes at
Boeing plants since 1995.
Specifically, Boeing made the move as retaliation for past strikes
and to cast fear over workers considering further work stoppages, the
(In truth, it’s the NLRB’s acting general counsel acting in his
role as a prosecutor, not the presidentially appointed NLRB itself that
has issued the complaint against Boeing.)
The NLRB is seeking an order requiring Boeing to maintain its
second production line for the new 787 Dreamliner in Washington.
What’s notable here is that Boeing isn’t trying to shut down a
plant, lay off workers and spirit its tooling in the dark of night to
South Carolina. It’s simply adding capacity in another state to keep up
with booming orders for the 787. You might say it’s a smart decision
too, spreading its risk for disruptions from natural disasters,
accidents or strikes.
South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning workers who are
hired can’t be forced to join a union that has been certified to
represent workers at a company.
The proposed bill, Protecting Jobs From Government Interference
Act, would prohibit the NLRB from restricting where a company can move a
factory, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The National Association of Manufacturers and the National
Federation of Independent Business have launched a radio advertising
campaign in 11 states urging members of Congress to support the bill.
The spots argue that an unelected body is stifling job growth by
creating uncertainty about where businesses can expand.
“It is clear that the NLRB has strayed from its role as an
impartial arbiter to instead become just an extension of labor unions,”
NFIB President Dan Danner said in a statement. “This new atmosphere has
created a chilling effect on businesses of all sizes. The NLRB has
crossed beyond the scope of its legal authority in its zeal to punish
businesses, and it needs to be reined in before more damage is done.”
On Sept. 1, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in a conference
call with reporters from conservative news outlets that the agency
should be disbanded, and supported calls that its lone Republican member
step down. If Brian Hayes departs, she said, the board wouldn’t have
the necessary quorum to take action, including its case against Boeing.
Votes couldn’t be taken until the Senate confirmed a new presidential
nominee or President Obama installed someone using the
Conservative blog Hot Air
noted that two members of Obama’s
administration -- Gary Locke, the new ambassador to China who previously
served as Commerce secretary, and Chief of Staff William Daley --
served on Boeing’s board when it made the decision to build its plant in
Haley said the president needs to speak up and tell the Democrat-controlled NLRB to back off.
The new plant in North Charleston would be a boon for the Port of
Charleston and the state economy. As Port Director Jim Newsome told the American Shipper
editorial team on a conference call, anytime a company of Boeing’s
stature sets up shop somewhere, other companies and site relocation
experts take notice and wonder if they, or their clients, could benefit
from the same business climate.
And Boeing would use the port to import many components and even large assemblies manufactured by overseas suppliers.
There may be other disputes where the labor movement deserves the
administration’s support, but this isn’t one of them. Business groups
and Republicans are crying about too much regulation stifling business
activity at a time when the economy is struggling. Let’s bear in mind
that there wasn’t enough -- or proper -- regulation in place to
forestall the excesses of the last decade on Wall Street, in the
environment and elsewhere.
But the Boeing case is a poor case for exerting government control of the market. — Eric Kulisch