WSJ: Congress vs. the NLRB

Congress vs. the NLRB


President Obama's National Labor Relations Board has spent the year thumbing its nose at Congress by reinterpreting longstanding labor law on behalf of union friends. Congress is finally fighting back.

Tennessee GOP Senator Lamar Alexander along with South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are this week introducing legislation to rein in the labor board's latest assault on business. The board's complaint against Boeing, filed last month, is the first shot in a new union war on federal right-to-work law, a policy shift that is every bit as threatening as the drive to get rid of secret ballots in union elections.

Boeing decided 17 months ago to invest $2 billion building a new production plant for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. It made the decision only after talks broke down with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, whose members wanted the work at a unionized plant in Washington state. The union's many strikes over the years have cost Boeing a bundle. South Carolina, like 21 other states, has a right-to-work law, which forbids compulsory unionism.

The Obama NLRB nonetheless chose to make Boeing a whipping boy in a new offensive against right-to-work states. It filed a complaint demanding that an administrative law judge halt the South Carolina plant (set to open in July), and force Boeing to move production to Washington.

This despite the fact that Boeing made clear this is a new production facility or that it has added 12,000 jobs in Washington since announcing the South Carolina move.

No matter. The complaint's real target is the federal right-to-work guarantee. Among the most celebrated provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act is what's known as 14(b)—the section that allows states to pass right-to-work laws. The Boeing complaint guts that guarantee by effectively requiring companies to continue manufacturing in union states—or be found guilty of a rights violation. This is a union dream come true, on par with "card check."

As Senator Alexander tells us, this is a direct attack on a right-to-work law that was "thoroughly debated" by Congress in 1947 and "remains clear today." The Alexander-Graham-DeMint legislation would clarify the existing provision, ensuring that state right-to-work laws cannot be pre-empted by the NLRB or union contracts. We're assuming the 11 Democratic Senators from right-to-work states will stand up for their non-unionized workers—if Senator Majority Harry Reid (from right-to-work Nevada) allows a vote.

Boeing will fight the NLRB complaint, though that might mean a protracted court fight. It also means more uncertainty for every business considering a move of future production facilities to a right-to-work state. Many of them may simply relocate manufacturing overseas.

This is the latest gambit from an Administration that has been ramping up its regulatory and enforcement powers on behalf of special-interest allies such as unions. The only check against this is Congress, so we're glad to see Members speaking up.