NYT: Boeing Labor Dispute Is Making New Factory A Political Football

Boeing Labor Dispute Is Making New Factory A Political Football
The New York Times 
Steven Greenhouse
June 30, 2011
Boeing’s gigantic new $750 million airplane factory here is the pride of South Carolina, the biggest single investment ever made in a state that is far more associated with old-line textile mills than state-of-the-art manufacturing. In just a few weeks, 1,000 workers will begin assembling the first of what they hope will be hundreds of 787 Dreamliners.
That is, unless the federal government takes it all away.
In a case that has enraged South Carolinians and become a cause célèbre among Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefuls, the National Labor Relations Board has accused Boeing of illegally setting up shop in South Carolina because of past strikes by the unionized workers at its main manufacturing base in the Seattle area. The board is asking a judge to order Boeing to move the Dreamliner production — and the associated jobs — to Washington State.
Companies can generally move a plant anywhere they choose, although federal law bars them from doing so if a move involves punishing employees for exercising their federally protected right to unionize or strike. On several occasions, Boeing executives mentioned past strikes as a reason for the move to South Carolina — most directly, when one told the Seattle Times that the “overriding factor” in the decision was “we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.”
Obama’s Labor Union Problem
Nina Easton
June 30, 2011
How many ways are there to sidestep Congress' refusal to make it easier for unions to organize? Let us count them. No, better than that, let's add yet another example -- this one involving Delta Airlines -- to the growing pile of end-runs around Congress to reward a constituency this White House badly needs at its side in next year's presidential election.
Labor leaders bet big on an Obama victory in 2008, hoping Congress would enact, and the Democratic president would sign, "card-check" -- legislation designed to turn around labor's sagging membership rolls by ending secret-ballot elections in organizing drives. But card-check has never been able to pass the Senate -- not even when Democrats took over Congress in 2006. Instead, presidential appointees friendly to labor are deploying agency muscle.
The latest example is taking place largely out of sight -- at the National Mediation Board, a little known agency that oversees union elections for railroads and airlines.
Late in 2010, flight attendants for the nonunion Delta and its unionized Northwest Airlines (acquired in a 2008 merger) voted thumbs down on joining the Association of Flight Attendants. The board -- where two of the three members are former top union officials -- reacted by investigating Delta for "interference" in the election, prompted by union claims that the company circulated too much literature.