James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Union attack on Boeing turns into unfunny joke

June 18, 2011

Obamaland’s assault on Boeing went from economic tragedy to political farce during a House Oversight Committee field hearing in South Carolina on Friday. Lafe Solomon, acting counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, dropped this gem:

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

Who cares about intent? If the NLRB gets its way, 1,000 workers at the already completed plant will lose their jobs. Ironically, the NLRB can’t point to anyone who has lost their job as a result of Boeing building a second assembly line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina rather than in the state of Washington. That reality produced this bizarre sequence (via Bloomberg) at the hearing:

“Can you name me a single, solitary worker in Washington state” who lost jobs or benefits? asked Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. “Where is the retaliation?”

Solomon repeatedly responded that he couldn’t “at this time” provide evidence of such an effect. “We believe evidence will show Boeing was motivated by retaliation,” he said.

Verdict first, evidence later. But when you are waging ideological war to accomplish via regulation what you cannot via legislation … well, whatever gets you through the night, right?

To recall: Boeing opened its $750 million facility in union-resistant  South Carolina on June 10, employing some 1,000 workers. It’s a second location for the production of the company’s 787 Dreamliner. Boeing might have built the production line back in Washington, but the local union wouldn’t agree to a lengthy no-strike contract. And the company hasn’t forgotten that a 2008 strike helped put the 787 program over budget and behind schedule.

After the new plant was built, the NLRB said the move was retaliatory and the line should be moved to Washington. That smacks of overreach. The pertinent law would seem to bar punitive actions by company bosses against union activists. That’s not the situation here. Boeing decided to open a new plant in a state where it was given financial incentives, labor is cheaper and work stoppages are less likely. Again, there’s no evidence any worker in Seattle lost a job. A previous 787 assembly line remains there, and the company claims to have added some 2,000 workers to that facility.

That suggests the move was a rational business decision that didn’t shortchange anyone already working at Boeing. So it’s hard to see how the union’s objection can really hold water. But the legal fight will probably be lengthy and may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. And if Boeing were to lose, remedying the situation could get expensive.

But there are much broader implications. The NLRB’s fight comes amid a political debate about unions and the threat from anti-union or so-called “right to work” states. If it turns out a union can block a business decision even when there’s no harm to its members, that could easily deter needed manufacturing investment in America, whether by homegrown or foreign-owned companies.

Team Obama thinks little of the idea that “uncertainty” created by its tax, spending and regulatory policies has created an anemic recovery. But if an American business cannot even rely on the law to protect its fundamental economic right to open a plant in its state of choice, then it really cannot be certain of much.

 

Comments

Nope. It has nothing to do with where it moved too. They broke the law openly.

Posted by BrettBanditelli | Report as abusive
 

Boeing’s motives are irrelevant. They have an absolute Constitutional right to locate their own property where they please.

The Wagner Act (and similar) are unconstitutional and the NRLB is illegitimate.

Boeing should ignore the Feds and carry on business as normal. Let Obama send in troops to try to stop them. Time to reverse decades of union-government coercion against individuals exercising their legitimate property rights.

Posted by JeffPerren | Report as abusive
 

This is just unbelievable. We need a REAL businessman and conservative to lead us out of the fiscal disaster we’re in. Don’t underestimate the Cain Train, friends. Although the other night’s debate didn’t allow him to shine, Herman Cain’s star is still rising and I think Americans will like what they hear as they get to know him better. He’s a proven business success and America is desperate for a change of course, before Obama ruins us.

Check out this short video that pits a hopelessly out of his league Obama against Herman Cain as they articulate alternate thoughts on the economic disaster we’re in. Barack Obama’s worst nightmare, indeed!

http://www.youtube.com/user/Hollywood4Ca in?#p/a/u/0/RuZ0NGKpx2c

Posted by Hollywood4Cain | Report as abusive
 

win at all costs even if it means we all go down together… it’s economic suicide…

Posted by MJ26USA | Report as abusive
 

who knows what team obama actually ‘thinks’ – what we do know is the actions its regulatory apparatchiks (ebpa, nlrb, etc) actually take….

solomon’s testimony makes it clear that nlrb has inferred motives and intent that permit it to intervene against boeing…what this piece points out is that – given the nlrb’s (current) legal reasoning, the agency is entitled to question any move by any company that has plants in a ‘union’ state to manufacture in a ‘right to work’ state…

this is ‘whim of law’ not ‘rule of law’ because the law is defined by ex ante beliefs by bureaucrats rather than demonstrable ‘ex post facto’ harms in the marketplace…

….i have no idea what the electoral count of ‘right to work’ states may be but i’m pretty confident that entrepreneurs and enterprises nationwide will think thrice before they invest in greenfield american plants….so will their boards….

Posted by mds123 | Report as abusive
 

Boeing clearly has broken no laws. They’ve expanded production in Seattle and chose to also expand production in South Carolina.

Suppose you’ve been buying $100 a week in groceries at FoodMart. Later on, you start buying $150 a week at FoodMart and $50 a week at CostLand. Only on another planet would someone claim that you’ve somehow “moved” your grocery shopping to CostLand or “retaliated” against FoodMart.

Posted by Randy549 | Report as abusive
 

What do you expect when politicians get involved ?

Posted by MikeNulty | Report as abusive
 

Boeing will build their next facility in a foreign country where they will be welcomed with open arms and not punished by unions and team Obama.

Posted by theeblondee | Report as abusive
 

Elections have consequences and people who voted for Obama to prove to themselves they are racist may now find they have no job thanks to his policies

Posted by motorman | Report as abusive
 

Boeing broke no laws, the NLRB certainly did, and like ATF and Justice, under this administration, they need to be perp walked in front of the House Oversight Committee and a Federal Judge.

Posted by soxfan4life | Report as abusive
 

This is just another example of the utter stupidity of American labor unionists setting themselves up to lose more jobs to offshoring. The unmitigated greed of labor unions drives every American industry that it is successful at dominating offshore. Labor’s stooges in the Democratic party have through poor policy decisions driven the us steel industry and the auto industry to near states of collapse over and over again. Why anyone, anywhere accepts as even remotely plausible the argument that unions promote workers welfare is beyond me.

Posted by richardrothey | Report as abusive
 

you have a contract to buy your groceries from food mart at a prenegotiated price. you entered this contract to get a predictable, fixed-price-per-unit supply over a given time and agreed not to shop anywhere else.
you can’t violate a contract without consequences.

Posted by johnkmt | Report as abusive
 

Hey Boeing! Build your next plant in Canada! We have a conservative government, well-trained workers and unions here that, while still unions, are, to a degree, rather more realistic than American unions. Plus there isn’t an NLRB here either! What are you waiting for?

Posted by Elektrobahn | Report as abusive
 

The NLRB finds that Boeing did some wrong, and naturally the guilty parties in the South come to their defense. The NLRB did nothing wrong by catching Boeing in the act.

If Boeing goes offshore, pursue them as one would pursue a terrorist, and repatriate all assets to US hands that are not Southern. Should the NLRB fail, remind Boeing that going Galt will be their undoing – through military pursuit.

Posted by ProudYankee | Report as abusive
 

Boeing breaks the law, Dixie complains about being caught. Punish both the South and Boeing, and pursue/capture them if they go offshore.

Posted by ProudYankee | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •