DeMint rips la­bor board, Democrats in Boe­ing battle

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY TIM DE­VANEY

South Carolina Repub­li­can Sen. Jim DeMint on May 19 crit­i­cized a Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board move to block a ma­jor new Boe­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in his state and said Democrats need to dis­tance them­selves from la­bor unions who are hurt­ing the work­ers they are sup­posed to pro­tect.

Mr. DeMint’s com­ments in a tele­con­fer­ence with re­porters came amid an es­ca­lat­ing stand­off be­tween the NLRB and South Carolina of­fi­cials over the fate of a $2 bil­lion man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity Boe­ing is build­ing near Charleston to make its new 787 Dream­liner. In a move strongly op­posed by busi­ness groups, the NLRB sided with Boe­ing’s unions, which claimed the new plant was be­ing built in a right-to-work state to pun­ish the unions for past strikes.

Democrats sid­ing with the la­bor agency are “very afraid of do­ing any­thing that an­tag­o­nizes unions, even if be­hind the scenes they agree with us,” he said. “[. . . ] These guys are afraid, lit­er­ally in­tim­i­dated by the unions.”

Boe­ing’s unions say they have in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Boe­ing of­fi­cials prov­ing their ac­cu­sa­tions, and the NLRB agreed, fill­ing a com­plaint last month that the de­ci­sion to move pro­duc­tion to South Carolina was an im­per­mis­si­ble re­tal­ia­tor y move un­der fed­eral la­bor laws.

“The key thing here is mo­ti­va­tion,” said NLRB spokes- woman Nancy Clee­land. “In our com­plaint, we al­lege they made it very clear to the union mem­bers they were do­ing this to re­tal­i­ate against them.”

Boe­ing has staunchly de­nied us­ing the new plant to pun­ish its la­bor unions. The Chicagob­ased aero­space gi­ant con­tends that shift­ing some of the pro­duc­tion to South Carolina was purely a busi­ness de­ci­sion, and the com­pany was within its rights to con­sider its past re­la­tions with the unions in Wash­ing­ton state.

“We’ve been up­front about the fact that one of those rea­sons [for the South Carolina plant] had to do with the his­tory of strikes we have had in Puget Sound,” Boe­ing spokesman Tim Neale said. “We be­lieve that legally com­pa­nies are en­ti­tled to take things like la­bor his­tor y into ac­count when de­cid­ing where to in­vest.”

In its de­fense, Boe­ing notes that it isn’t cut­ting jobs or pro­duc­tion in the Puget Sound area of Wash­ing­ton state and has added more than 2,000 po­si­tions there since the 2009 de­ci­sion to open a sec­ond pro­duc­tion plant across the coun­try.

“If this is Boe­ing’s way of in­tim­i­dat­ing em­ploy­ees,” said Fred Ws­zolek, spokesman for Work­force Fair­ness In­sti­tute, an ad­vo­cacy group that has long been crit­i­cal of the NLRB, “it sure seems like a strange way of go­ing about it.”

If the NLRB pre­vails, it could threaten more than 1,000 jobs pro­jected to be cre­ated for the South Carolina plant. Busi-

Democrats sid­ing with the la­bor agency are “very afraid of do­ing any­thing that an­tag­o­nizes unions, even if be­hind the scenes they agree with us,” the South Carolina Repub­li­can said. “[. . . ] These guys are afraid, lit­er­ally in­tim­i­dated by the unions.”

ness groups and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans say the clash is a clear case of reg­u­la­tory over­reach, with the NLRB, now dom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Obama’s ap­pointees in­ter­fer­ing in what long has been con­sid­ered pr ivate busi­ness de­ci­sions.

“To threaten this many jobs with one of his bo­gus claims is one of the most ab­surd things we’ve seen from this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Mr. DeMint said.

Boe­ing broke ground in Novem­ber 2009 for its fi­nal assem­bly and de­liv­ery plant for 787s in North Charleston and ex­pects to start pro­duc­tion on 787s in July, de­spite the NLRB com­plaint.

The first Dream­liner is ex­pected in the first quar­ter of 2012.

Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid two weeks ago chided Repub­li­cans for what he said was their in­ter­fer­ence into the reg­u­la­tory process and the at­tempt to pres­sure an in­de­pen­dent agency.

And the Everett (Wash.) Her­ald on May 19 re­ported that Wash­ing­ton Sen. Patty Mur­ray and nine fel­low Demo­cratic sen­a­tors have sent a letter to the NLRB urg­ing the agency to re­sist out­side pres­sure and re­quests from Repub­li­cans for an ex­pla­na­tion of its de­ci­sion ahead of next month’s hear­ing on the com­plaint.

“We be­lieve it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the gen­eral coun­sel’s of­fice to com­pro­mise its lit­i­gat­ing po­si­tion by de­tail­ing its legal strat­egy in this man­ner,” the sen­a­tors wrote.

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