WFI - NLRB Clips 4/29/11

I'm sure you all are very tired because you stayed up all night watching royal wedding coverage, but I'd like to highlight some more articles on the NLRB and Boeing issue. There are some really interesting ones here.


Rein in the NLRB

The Detroit News

The National Relations Board complaint against Boeing, seeking an order forbidding the aircraft maker from opening a non-union production line in South Carolina, must not be sustained. The economy can't withstand such paralyzing government interference in business decisions.

The NLRB issued the complaint on behalf of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union. The government agency said Boeing was moving part of its production away from Washington State in retaliation for previous strikes by some Boeing workers. The agency's lawyer agued that this limits the union's right to strike, which is illegal.

Boeing has vowed to fight the complaint. The next step, if there isn't a settlement, is a June hearing before an administrative law judge. Ultimately, the firm's recourse is to the federal courts.

The agency acted with typical government obliviousness to business needs. The company has already hired 1,000 workers and had planned to begin work on new 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina in July, the Wall Street Journal reports. The complaint and hearing process now freeze Boeing's production plans. This, of course, creates pressure on Boeing to settle.

The NLRB's argument that Boeing's move deprives the union of the right to strike is absurd. Yes, union workers have the right to strike. But they don't have a right to escape the consequences of striking, which is that an employer may be persuaded to open up shop elsewhere, including in right-to-work states such as South Carolina.

The NLRB argues that officials of Boeing expressly stated that they were moving some production to South Carolina to forestall the possibility of additional strikes. If true, so what? Firms are allowed to make decisions in their best business interest and avoiding the cost and disruption of a strike is a sound business decision.

In addition, the firm contends that the new South Carolina production line creates additional capacity and that jobs aren't being lost in Washington state.

If the NLRB complaint is upheld in the courts, it will ultimately damage not only the firms that will then be held hostage to their unions, but all heavily unionized states such as Michigan.

What new firm would invest in Michigan knowing that its union could then block its expansion to a less unionized state such as Tennessee or Alabama? The better course would be to start a new firm in a right-to-work state from the beginning.

This move by the NLRB is part of its new, more aggressive tactics, including suits against Arizona and South Dakota seeking to strike down state constitutional amendments that guarantee workers secret ballots in unionization elections.

President Barack Obama has made conciliatory sounds seeking to reassure business, but the actions of the NLRB illustrate the real face of his administration. Congress ought to hold hearings on reining in the NLRB.


Obama's Silence on Boeing Is Unacceptable

Gov. Nikki Haley

In October 2009, Boeing, long one of the best corporations in America, made an announcement that changed the economic outlook of South Carolina forever: The company's second line of 787 Dreamliners would be produced in North Charleston.

In choosing to manufacture in my state, Boeing was exercising its right as a free enterprise in a free nation to conduct business wherever it believed would best serve both the bottom line and the employees of its company. This is not a novel or complicated idea. It's called capitalism.

Boeing has since poured billions of dollars into a new, state-of-the art facility in South Carolina's picturesque Low Country along the Atlantic coast. It has created thousands of good jobs and joined the long tradition of distinguished and employee-friendly corporations that have found a home, and a partner, in the Palmetto State.

This a win-win for South Carolina, for Boeing, and for the global clients who will see Dreamliners rolling off the North Charleston line at the rate of 10 a month, starting with the first one next year. But, as is often the case, a win for people and businesses is a loss for the labor unions, which rely on coercion, bullying and undue political influence to stay afloat.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, and we're proud that within our borders workers cannot be required to join a labor union as a condition of employment. We don't need unions playing middlemen between our companies and our employees. We don't want them forcefully inserted into our promising business climate. And we will not stand for them intimidating South Carolinians.

That is apparently too much for President Obama and his union-beholden appointees at the National Labor Relations Board, who have asked the courts to intervene and force Boeing to stop production in South Carolina. The NLRB wants Boeing to produce the planes only in Washington state, where its workers must belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Let's be clear: Boeing is a great corporate citizen in Washington and in South Carolina. The company chose to come to our state because the cost of doing business is low, our job training and work force are strong, and our ports are tremendous. The fact that we are a right-to-work state is an added bonus.

The actions by the NLRB are nothing less than a direct assault on the 22 right-to-work states across America. They are also an unprecedented attack on an iconic American company that is being told by the federal government—which seems to regard its authority as endless—where and how to build airplanes.

The president has been silent since his hand-selected NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon, who has not yet been confirmed by the United States Senate as required by law, chose to engage in economic warfare on behalf of the unions last week.

While silence in this case can be assumed to mean consent, President Obama's silence is not acceptable—not to me, and certainly not to the millions of South Carolinians who are rightly aghast at the thought of the greatest economic development success our state has seen in decades being ripped away by federal bureaucrats who appear to be little more than union puppets.

This is not just a South Carolina issue, and President Obama owes the people of our country a response. If they get away with this government-dictated economic larceny, the unions won't stop in our state.

The nation deserves an explanation as to why the president's appointees are doing the machinist union's dirty work on the backs of the businesses and workers of South Carolina.

Ms. Haley, a Republican, is governor of South Carolina.


U.S. Labor Board Urged by States to Drop Boeing Complaint


The National Labor Relations Board should “withdraw immediately” a complaint against Boeing Co. (BA) that alleges the company retaliated against union employees, attorneys general in nine states said in a letter.

The board’s action, citing Boeing’s decision to open a 787 aircraft assembly line in South Carolina, is an “assault” on the ability of the states to create jobs, according to the letter released today.

“Our states are trying to emerge from one of the worst economic collapses since the Depression,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote in the letter signed by eight colleagues. “Your complaint further impairs an economic recovery.”

The board last week said Boeing chose South Carolina, a state that bans labor agreements that require workers to join a union, over keeping the work in Washington state because it was “motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strike and chill future strike activity.” Boeing executives had said they were concerned about strikes by employees, according to the complaint.

Wilson and the attorneys general from Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arizona urged the board to “cease this attack on our right to work, our states’ economies, and our jobs.”

Assembly Lines

The board’s complaint said Boeing should be forced to open a Washington state assembly line after violating workers’ rights by building the facility in South Carolina. The company, the world’s biggest aerospace company, decided in 2009 to build the new assembly line.

The complaint doesn’t seek to close Boeing’s plant in South Carolina and both parties will have a chance to present evidence at a scheduled hearing, Nancy Cleeland, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The complaint has nothing to do with state right-to-work laws, which ban certain types of employer-union agreements and are expressly permitted” by national labor law, she said.

Boeing declined to comment, company spokesman Tim Neale said.

Boeing’s choice of South Carolina marked its first departure from the Puget Sound hub where it has built all its commercial jets. Relations with the Machinists union have been strained by four strikes since 1989, including the most recent, two-month walkout at the end of 2008.

A hearing on the labor board’s recommendation, which was issued by its acting general counsel, was scheduled for June 14 before an administrative law judge in Seattle.


Sen. Grassley on NLRB and Boeing: Congress Can Fix the Law

Shop Floor

The first question posed to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) at an NAM-sponsored event in Pella, Iowa, on Wednesday dealt with the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against The Boeing Company for locating new production facilities in South Carolina instead of Washington state. (For more on the event, see The Journal Express,NAM presents Grassley with legislative excellence award.”)

Sen. Grassley responded with sharp criticism, saying, “”If the law lets the NLRB do this, then we need to change the law.”

It’s an important “if.” In filing its complaint against Boeing for locating a new production line for the 787 Dreamliner plane in South Carolina, the NLRB had to ignore 45 years of the board’s own precedent, which clearly established an employer’s legitimate interest in mitigating the impact of strikes. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that interest in two cases, American Ship Building Co. v. NLRB, 380 U.S. 300 (1965) and NLRB v. Brown, 380 U.S. 286 (1965)].

An Administrative Law Judge has scheduled a June 14 hearing on the NLRB’s complaint, which was filed by the board’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, at the instigation of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The NLRB could eventually hear the case and court proceedings are certainly possible, despite the complaint being “legally frivolous” as Boeing characterized it in a tough statement after the Solomon’s action.

But what if? In a very helpful review of the law, the National Review’s Robert VerBruggen describes the vague and poorly written National Labor Relations Act and the process now facing Boeing.  Congressional action may indeed be necessary, he writes in “Pulling Labor Law Out of Thin Air“:

This new move by the general counsel is bad enough in itself, but the underlying legal mess is the bigger issue. It’s possible for activist judges to twist even a clearly written law to serve their ends. But this kind of malfeasance becomes almost inevitable when legislators use vague language — essentially leaving it up to presidential appointees to decide what is and isn’t legal on a case-by-case basis. In the near term, the board and the courts should do the sensible thing and end the crusade against Boeing. And in the medium term, Congress needs to fix the law so that it no longer enables such crusades. Specifically, it should lay out what kinds of business decisions are open to challenge as “unfair labor practices,” and what exactly the general counsel must prove to succeed. This would give legislators a chance not only to fill the gaps in board and court precedent, but also to reconsider the decisions these bodies pulled out of thin air over the years.

More succinctly, Congress must fulfill its responsibility to make laws, rather than simply empowering non-legislative bodies to change the rules based on their political preferences.


Fox News

Nine state attorneys general sounded off in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board, calling a complaint it filed against Boeing for opening a production facility in South Carolina an assault on their states' economies.

After receiving a complaint from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the NLRB claims Boeing participated in unfair labor practices by threatening to open new, non-union facilities elsewhere when workers went on strike at the company's Washington state production facility in 2008.

Boeing is slated to open its newest 787 airliner assembly line this summer in South Carolina, a "right-to-work" state, in which employee's can't be forced to join a union to work at unionized plants. In Washington state and the 28 states without "right-to-work" laws, once a majority of workers have opted to join a union, everyone can be required to join and pay dues. That gives labor groups an advantage in organizing.

"This complaint represents an assault upon the constitutional right of free speech, and the ability of our states to create jobs and recruit industry. Your ill-conceived retaliatory action seeks to destroy our citizens' right to work," the letter from the attorneys general reads.

The NLRB complaint attempts to keep Boeing from building 787 airliners in the Palmetto State plant, not shut it down. But the company designed the facility to produce three of those type of airplanes each month.

Some have called the NLRB action unprecedented, and South Carolina officials have expressed anger and fear that it could stymie growth. Attorneys general from Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma joined South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson in signing Thursday's letter to voice their concerns that NLRB interference could hinder economic growth in their states too.

"Our states are struggling to emerge from one of the worst economic collapses since the Depression. Your complaint further impairs an economic recovery," the letter says. "Intrusion by the federal bureaucracy on behalf of unions will not create a single new job or put one unemployed person back to work."

But the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers insists its filed the complaint out of legitimate concern that Boeing's new plant is aimed at union busting.

"Boeing's decision to build a 787 assembly line in South Carolina sent a message that Boeing workers would suffer financial harm for exercising their collective bargaining rights," Vice President Rich Michalski said.

Boeing claims it has created 2000 jobs at its Seattle area site since it announced it would build the South Carolina Facility and that the 1,000 new jobs there won't take anything from workers in Washington state.

And the group of attorneys general who sent the letter warn that if it moves forward, the NLRB complaint would financially harm all their states.

"The only justification for the NLRB's unprecedented retaliatory action is to aid union survival," the letter said. "Your action seriously undermines our citizens' right to work as well as their ability to compete globally... We thus call upon you to cease this attack on our right to work, our states' economies, and our jobs."