In a letter sent to Obama, the senators said they would “vigorously oppose” and use all procedural tools to block the confirmations of the board’s Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon and board member Craig Becker, a former union attorney whom Obama granted a recess appointment last year.
The NLRB suit against Boeing is “an attack on millions of workers in 22 right-to-work states, as well as a government-led act of intimidation against American companies that should have the freedom to choose to build plants in right-to-work states,” states the letter, which was made public on Thursday. “If the NLRB prevails, it will only encourage companies to make their investments in foreign nations, moving jobs and economic growth overseas.”
The letter is the latest salvo in a national fight over so-called right-to-work states, which prohibit employers from requiring workers to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. Wisconsin’s efforts to restrict union rights for public employees set off weeks of protests by labor groups in Madison earlier this year.
On Wednesday, South Carolina GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, as well as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), rolled out legislation that would bar the federal government from suing or denying contracts to states because of their right-to-work status.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who signed the letter, took to the Senate floor Thursday to blast the lawsuit NLRB filed against Boeing, saying it would cost billions of dollars and thousands of new jobs. The board filed suit in April after a union sued the aerospace manufacturer for opening a second assembly line for its 787s at a nonunion facility in South Carolina instead of union-friendly Washington state, where Boeing has facilities.
“Why attack a private company with a legal challenge that will cost an enormous amount of money to defend, disrupts business, undermines the efforts of states to increase jobs and promote economic recovery, but that will fail for its lack of merit? The answer is simple: The unions wanted it,” Hatch said. “This is just another chapter in the sorry relationship between unions, big government and the party of big government.”
In January, Obama nominated Solomon to become NLRB’s general counsel, but Solomon has not yet appeared for a Senate confirmation hearing or received a confirmation vote in the full Senate.
Becker’s nomination to become one of five members of NLRB’s board was rejected by the Senate in February 2010 over concerns about his work for Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. But Obama used a recess appointment to seat temporarily seat him a month later.
“The Senate has been unacceptably denied the ability to exercise its constitutional duty of advice and consent in regards to the NLRB,” the senators wrote in their letter to Obama “We urge you to withdraw both Mr. Solomon’s and Mr. Becker’s nominations to their respective positions immediately. If not, we will vigorously oppose both nominations, vote against cloture and use all procedural tools available to defeat their confirmation in the Senate.”
Boeing issues blanket denial to NLRB allegations
A day after Boeing’s lead attorney sent a scathing letter to the National Labor Relations Board, the company has filed a legal response, denying nearly every allegation in a complaint over the company’s plant in North Charleston.
In its answer to the NLRB lawsuit, Boeing Co. issued a blanket denial, calling the board’s remedy — to open another assembly line in Washington state — “impermissibly retroactive” and a fix that would force the company to close its Lowcountry operations.
The NLRB filed its complaint against Boeing on April 20 for its expansion to South Carolina, where the company is building a second final assembly and delivery facility for its 787 Dreamliner. The first line is in Everett, Wash. Boeing already operates two plants in North Charleston to manufacture and integrate sections of the 787 adjacent to Charleston International Airport.
According to the complaint, the expansion illegally transferred work to nonunion facilities in North Charleston, and the labor relations board is calling for Boeing to open another assembly line in Washington state. Boeing opened the North Charleston facility because of past union strikes in Washington state and to prevent future strikes, according to the complaint.
According to Boeing’s answer, filed Wednesday, the decision to open a plant in North Charleston was based on a favorable business environment, financial incentives from the state and geographical diversity for its commercial airline operations, among other factors.
“Boeing would have made the same decisions with respect to the placement of the second assembly line in North Charleston even if it had not taken into consideration the damaging impact of future strikes on the production of 787s,” according to Boeing’s response.
Boeing said its conduct wasn’t destructive to its employees’ rights because Boeing has the right to place work wherever it chooses, as outlined in its collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The Machinists union filed the original charge against Boeing in 2010.
Boeing also addressed the NLRB’s remedy, saying it “would cause an undue hardship on Boeing, its employees and the state of South Carolina.”
“The remedy requested ... is impermissibly retroactive because its legal basis represents a radical and not reasonably anticipated departure from current board and court precedent,” according to the answer, which goes on to say the remedy would cause Boeing to close its North Charleston plant.
Boeing also denied it removed work from its facilities in Everett because of union strikes and denied it threatened those facilities with the loss of additional work because of strikes.
The answer follows a letter sent Tuesday from Boeing’s general counsel to Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the NLRB.
In the letter, J. Michael Luttig, who is also Boeing’s executive vice president, wrote that the NLRB’s complaint misquoted and mischaracterized statements by Boeing executives.
“You have a responsibility to correct these misquotations and mischaracterizations, for the public record and also for purposes of the complaint you have filed,” the letter states. “Through these misquotations and mischaracterizations, you have done a grave disservice to The Boeing Co., its executives and shareholders and to the 160,000 Boeing employees worldwide.”
The letter also accused NLRB staff members of using public statements about the case to push a theory that Boeing had somehow committed to building all of the company’s 787s in Washington, which equates to an illegal transfer of work to South Carolina. Luttig calls those assertions false and says Boeing made no such commitment.
“The notion that Boeing had somehow committed to Washington state to build all 787s in that state is neither mentioned nor even suggested either in the IAM’s charge or in your recently filed complaint,” the letter said. He continued, “Had you done so, we would have explained to you why such an understanding was plainly incorrect.”
The response is the last filing required by the NLRB before the case goes in front of an administrative law judge in June. At that time, Boeing, the Machinists union and the NLRB can present evidence for the case. The judge’s decision can be appealed to federal court.
Boeing plant: Job killing in S.C.
PRESIDENT OBAMA said in his State of the Union address that “we have to make America the best place on earth to do business.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s America doesn’t include South Carolina.
In a shocking and frightening display of Washington interference, the National Labor Relations Board has taken unprecedented legal action against The Boeing Company to prevent it from expanding production in the Palmetto State.
Why? Because the federal board claims that a private company that creates jobs in a right-to-work state like South Carolina is engaging in an “unfair labor practice,”
That’s ridiculous. Private companies must have the flexibility to make investments to remain financially successful and keep workers on the job. There’s nothing “unfair” about building a non-union, aircraft assembly plant. The only think unfair here is the NLRB sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.
Politically, of course, pro-union appointees on the NLRB have an obvious reason to want to block this plant. They see Boeing’s decision as a move to punish its employees in a unionized plant in Washington state.
But the government’s power over business doesn’t extend to picking and choosing who gets paychecks and who doesn’t. Besides, wages aren’t the only factor in determining where companies expand. Location, access to materials and quality of the workforce play important roles.
Georgia, like South Carolina, is a right-to-work state. So are 20 other states. What’s happening in South Carolina today could happen here tomorrow.
The attempt by the NLRB to block Boeing is an attack on states that have faster job growth and faster income growth than forced unionism states. Mr. Obama must live up to his pro-job promise and show that right-to-work states are part of America, too.
Defending free enterprise
In a complaint filed two weeks ago, the acting general counsel of the NLRB agreed with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Washington state that Boeing violated federal law by opening a second Dreamliner assembly line at a non-union plant in North Charleston.
The complaint cited Boeing officials' "repeated" statements that the non-union work force available here played a significant role in their business decision -- as if stating that obvious and justified motive violated a worker's right to strike.
Boeing pointed out this week that it had union permission in its collective bargaining agreement to "place work in any location of its choice without the need to bargain" with the union. The company also noted that it had not reduced employment at its unionized Washington plants.
Indeed, as South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said on the Senate floor Tuesday, Boeing has increased unionized employment in Washington state by 2,000 jobs since announcing that it would place a second Dreamliner assembly line in North Charleston.
"This is new work," he said. "No one lost a job. This is new business. And we are arguing about the right of a company to be able to make a business decision when it comes to new production."
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., with backing from South Carolina Sens. Graham and Jim DeMint, has introduced a bill to ensure that NLRB decisions and union contracts will not supersede state law in the nation's 23 right-to-work states. According to The Hill newspaper, the legislation would also bar the NLRB from moving forward with its complaint against Boeing.
State right-to-work laws, permitted under federal labor law, allow individuals to choose not to be represented by a union.
In recent weeks, Sens. DeMint, Graham and Alexander have also introduced legislation to protect the right of workers to a secret ballot when choosing whether to be represented by a union.
And Sen. DeMint wrote a letter, published on our Thursday Commentary page, to the president this week calling for reforms to the NLRB. Nineteen other senators signed that letter -- and at least 30 have gone on record against union efforts to rewrite labor laws via litigation.
Assorted legal analysts say the NLRB's complaint lacks legal credence and that Boeing will prevail in court -- but perhaps only after a long and costly legal battle. No government agency should inflict such pointless expense on companies for making what have long been legal business decisions.
And the decision of those other states to join in this fight against unwarranted federal intrusion into the free market confirms that its consequences extend far beyond South Carolina's borders.