Pro-union poli­cies suf­fo­cate the re­cov­ery

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

For the pro­fes­sional bu­reau­crat, telling busi­nesses where they can or can­not lo­cate their op­er­a­tions might be the next log­i­cal step af­ter telling them what they can or can­not pay em­ploy­ees.

But for the en­trepreneurs and busi­ness­men who are keep­ing our econ­omy afloat, the at­tempts of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board (NLRB) to dic­tate in what states busi­nesses can op­er­ate rep­re­sent jobkilling poli­cies our econ­omy can’t af­ford.

When the time came for the Boe­ing Co. to up­grade its fa­cil­i­ties to man­u­fac­ture more of its 787 Dream­liner, the com­pany de­cided to build a new plant in South Carolina rather than ex­pand its ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Wash­ing­ton state.

The de­ci­sion was based, at least in part, on South Carolina’s busi­ness-friendly poli­cies. South Carolina is a rightto-work state, mean­ing em­ploy­ees de­cide for them­selves whether to join a union.

Nat­u­rally, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­chin­ists and Aero­space Work­ers (IAMAW), the union that “rep­re­sents” cer­tain Boe­ing em­ploy­ees, was out­raged.

Nev­er­mind that the IAMAW’s own de­mands dur­ing ini­tial ne­go­ti­a­tions over the new plant — to have a seat on Boe­ing’s board and a com­mit­ment from the com­pany that fu­ture planes would be built in Wash­ing­ton — were part of the rea­son Boe­ing started look­ing else­where in the first place.

En­ter the NLRB, the gov­ern­ment agency that, de­pend­ing on the ad­min­is­tra­tion, ei­ther over­sees union ac­tiv­ity or in­ves­ti­gates un­fair la­bor prac­tices by busi­ness.

The NLRB is try­ing to block Boe­ing’s ef­forts in South Carolina be­cause, the board says, “its ac­tions were mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to re­tal­i­ate for past strikes and chill fu­ture strike ac­tiv­ity” in vi­o­la­tion of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Act. In a May memo, the NLRB also re­vealed that Chair­man Wilma B. Lieb­man, a for­mer union lawyer, may re­quire busi­nesses to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to and ne­go­ti­ate with the union be­fore re­lo­cat­ing if there’s any chance la­bor costs play into the de­ci­sion.

Unions are also largely be­hind ef­forts to block free trade. Other na­tions are pur­su­ing free-trade agree­ments with each other.

Mean­while, our agree­ments are blocked by unions de­mand­ing con­ces­sions. The re­sult is that other na­tions have an ad­van­tage over the United States, es­pe­cially in grow­ing mar­kets in South Amer­ica and Asia.

These may be well-meant ef­forts of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pro­tect Amer­i­can work­ers and help the econ­omy. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion seems in­tent on in­still­ing na­tion­wide the very cli­mate that drove Boe­ing to look out­side Wash­ing­ton state for a more busi­ness­friendly set­ting. Add threats of tax in­creases to the in­creas­ingly des­per­ate and re­stric­tive union agenda, and you get the po­ten­tial for job cre­ators to go back to look­ing over­seas for in­vest­ment or growth. Cre­at­ing an in­creas­ingly hos­tile place to do busi­ness is no way to at­tract busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives and in­no­va­tors to the United States. In­stead of look­ing for more busi­ness­friendly states, they’ll be look­ing for more busi­ness­friendly coun­tries.

At a time of high un­em­ploy­ment, the ar­gu­ments that unions pro­tect jobs and salaries are com­pelling to many Amer­i­cans, par­tic­u­larly union mem­bers.

But un­til unions and their friends in gov­ern­ment rec­og­nize that work­ers’ in­ter­ests — as with the nation’s in­ter­ests — lie with greater in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship, they rep­re­sent a for­mi­da­ble bar­rier to those goals.

Mean­while, even the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion now rec­og­nizes that our fail­ing kinder­gar­ten­through-grade-12 ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem has been hurt by teach­ers unions pro­tect­ing in­com­pe­tence and fight­ing against teacher accountability.

Com­pa­nies want to hire peo­ple with ba­sic lan­guage, science and math skills, and too many Amer­i­cans grad­u­ate from our schools lack­ing those fun­da­men­tal skills.

Un­for­tu­nately, it’s not just pro-union poli­cies putting us at risk. This ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress have helped make the long-term prospects for jobs and growth worse by vastly ex­pand­ing the deficit, rais­ing pay­roll taxes, fos­ter­ing pro­tec­tion­ism and cre­at­ing mas­sive new bu­reau­cra­cies for health care. New ideas will bring Amer­ica back to its right­ful po­si­tion as a global leader in eco­nomic strength and re­li­a­bil­ity.

But in or­der for new ideas to flour­ish, we need to strip away the old, fail­ing union poli­cies that are hold­ing us back.

Gary Shapiro is the pres­i­dent of the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics As­so­ci­a­tion and au­thor of “The Come­back: How In­no­va­tion Will Re­store the Amer­i­can Dream” (Beau­fort Books, 2011).

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