NLRB faces dou­ble-edged de­ci­sion in Boe­ing brouhaha

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY TIM DE­VANEY

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. | The Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board’s bid to pre­vent Boe­ing from shift­ing some op­er­a­tions to South Carolina could harm the very state it is try­ing to pro­tect by dis­cour­ag­ing busi­nesses from set­ting up shop there, Repub­li­can lawmakers warn.

A Wash­ing­ton state union has per­suaded the NLRB to fight to bring work back from the plant that Boe­ing Co., the world’s largest aero­space man­u­fac­turer, has built here.

A vic­tory for the la­bor board would cre­ate an un­friendly busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and sti­fle eco­nomic growth in Wash­ing­ton state and across the coun­try, Repub­li­cans say, and the un­cer­tainty even­tu­ally could force Amer­i­can com­pa­nies to do busi­ness over­seas.

“New busi­nesses won’t want to lo­cate in union states, be­cause the same thing that is hap­pen­ing to Boe­ing will hap­pen to them,” Rep. Blake Far­en­thold, Texas Repub­li­can, said at a con­gres­sional field hear­ing. “It cre­ates the im­pres­sion that we don’t want to start up in those states, be­cause once we grow up we’re stuck.”

This is shap­ing up to be one of the big­gest la­bor dis­putes for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. The NLRB filed its com­plaint against Boe­ing on April 20, charg­ing un­fair la­bor prac­tices, and the court case started June 14 in Seat­tle.

On June 17, mem­bers of the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­la­tions, con­trolled by Repub­li­cans, trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton state to in­ves­ti­gate whether the NLRB had over­stepped its au­thor­ity by dic­tat­ing where a pri­vate com­pany can do busi­ness.

“If the NLRB had its way, then once you plant your flag in a union state, then you can never leave,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, one of the three South Carolina Repub­li­cans at the hear­ing.

The NLRB’s top at­tor­ney told the com­mit­tee that he is try­ing to cre­ate a fair work­place en­vi­ron­ment in all states by set­ting a prece­dent that com­pa­nies can­not dis­crim­i­nate against unions.

“Boe­ing has ev­ery right to man­u­fac­ture planes in South Carolina, or any­where else for that mat­ter,” Lafe Solomon, the agency’s acting gen­eral coun­sel, tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing, “as long as those de­ci­sions are based on le­git­i­mate busi­ness con­sid­er­a­tions.”

The NLRB charges that Boe­ing is pun­ish­ing work­ers for past strikes in Puget Sound, Wash., by tak­ing work out of state. The com­pany called the move a sound busi­ness de­ci­sion and pointed out that it has hired thou­sands of work­ers in Wash­ing­ton since it lo­cated in the state.

The NLRB tech­ni­cally is not ask­ing Boe­ing to close its South Carolina plant. In­stead, the agency is ask­ing Boe­ing to match the num­ber of planes built in South Carolina with the num­ber pro­duced at an­other plant in Wash­ing­ton state.

That or­der ef­fec­tively would force the com­pany to shut down South Carolina op­er­a­tions be­cause of sup­ply is­sues with the 787 Dream­liner that limit Boe- ing’s the­o­ret­i­cal pro­duc­tion to three more planes per month than it al­ready is con­struct­ing, whether they are built in South Carolina or Wash­ing­ton.

That could cost this com­mu­nity more than 1,000 jobs that have been cre­ated in the past year and de­stroy about 3,000 more that are sup­posed to be added.

Those are only the jobs Boe­ing is cre­at­ing di­rectly. Bryan Der­re­berry, pres­i­dent of the Charleston Metro Cham­ber of Com­merce, said ev­ery job that Boe­ing fills cre­ates three to four lo­cal po­si­tions for sup­pli­ers.

“This has been very, very hard on all of us in South Carolina,” Mr. Gowdy said. “We need the work, we want the work, we’re hun­gry for the work.”

Mr. Solomon tes­ti­fied that he was sym­pa­thetic to the work­ers’ plight, but that didn’t change his mind about charg­ing Boe­ing.

“These are dif­fi­cult eco­nomic times, and I truly re­gret the anx­i­ety this case has caused them and their fam­i­lies,” he said. “The is­suance of the com­plaint was not in­tended to harm the work­ers of South Carolina, but rather to pro­tect the rights of work­ers.”

His con­cerns were echoed by Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich, Ohio Demo­crat and com­mit­tee mem­ber.

“It would be un­for­tu­nate if the peo­ple in South Carolina have to suf­fer,” he said at the hear­ing, “but it’s Boe­ing that should have that on their con­science.”

The harm­ful ef­fects of the NLRB’s com­plaint against Boe­ing doesn’t end with South Carolina. It also could limit busi­ness in­vest­ment in Wash­ing­ton state.

“Seat­tle’s econ­omy may be hurt in the fu­ture,” warned the com­mit­tee’s chair­man, Rep. Dar­rell Issa, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can.

The im­pact also could spread be­yond Wash­ing­ton state and South Carolina and “par­a­lyze our nation’s econ­omy,” South Carolina At­tor­ney Gen­eral Alan Wil­son tes­ti­fied.

The un­cer­tainty al­ready is push­ing Amer­i­can com­pa­nies to con­sider re­lo­cat­ing over­seas, out of the NLRB’s reach, said the lawmakers from South Carolina.

“The last thing we need are sig­nals to the largest job cre­ators in Amer­ica that they should run those jobs to an­other coun­try,” said Rep. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Repub­li­can who was at the hear­ing and rep­re­sents the area where the fac­tory is lo­cated.

“Make no mis­take: It is truly about whether we want Amer­i­can busi­nesses do­ing busi­ness in Amer­ica,” he said. “Or do we want to send more work to China?”

JEREMY LOCK/SPE­CIAL TO THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

“If the NLRB had its way, then once you plant your flag in a union state, then you can never leave,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Repub­li­can, of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions for busi­nesses.

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