Will Unions Clip Boeing’s Wings?

Posted 04/26/2011 06:39 PM ET

Big Labor: Can a union that workers voted out and a government agency with an anti-business agenda tell America’s largest exporter in which state it can create jobs? Is this revenge for Wisconsin?

Hell hath no fury like unions whose power is being challenged, and unions are not happy after Gov. Scott Walker’s victory for democracy over angry union mobs in Wisconsin and similar moves by governors in other states such as John Kasich’s Ohio. They want their pound of capitalist flesh.

So they, in the form of the International Association of Machinists, have called upon their wholly owned subsidiary, the National Labor Relations Board — whose job it is to bully business on labor’s behalf — to file a complaint against Boeing for expanding into the right-to-work state of South Carolina.

“We absolutely will not accept the bullying. This is a direct assault on right-to-work states,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told National Review Online. “I want to ask (President Obama) why he is allowing unelected bureaucrats to come in and do the unions’ dirty work on the backs of our businesses.”

The answer is simple: This is not about jobs or even workers’ rights. It’s about creating more union jobs to pay dues, money that can be spent electing Democrats.

The NLRB complaint alleges that Boeing wants to build its new 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston, S.C., instead of at its Puget Sound facility in Washington state in retaliation against the International Association of Machinists for strikes such as a two-month-long work stoppage in 2008 that cost the company $1.8 billion.

The IAM filed its complaint in March 2010. But while charging retaliation, it could not demonstrate any harm. The facility in South Carolina is new and takes no pre-existing jobs away from Puget Sound.

In fact, the IAM has added 2,000 jobs at Puget Sound since Boeing decided in October 2009 to expand in South Carolina.

Ironically, Boeing’s decision is an IAM chicken coming home to roost. The Vought Aircraft plant that Boeing purchased in 2009 was once one of Boeing’s suppliers. The IAM’s Washington strike forced the Vought facility to temporarily close and lay off workers who had narrowly voted to accept IAM representation in 2007. Dissatisfied with that representation, Vought workers voted to decertify the IAM in 2009.

Boeing’s move is not about retaliation. It’s about remaining competitive in an increasingly competitive global market against Europe’s Airbus and even possible Chinese competition down the road. Unable to get a no-strike pledge out of the IAM at Puget Sound, the “overriding factor,” said Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, “was that we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.”

Boeing is justifiably critical of the timing of the NLRB complaint, which comes some 17 months after the company announced its South Carolina expansion plans. The NLRB action comes right after another union’s defeat in Wisconsin and interestingly close to President Obama’s announcement of his re-election bid.

The NLRB is staffed with fair and impartial people like Craig Becker, advocate of card-check and former top lawyer for the Service Employees International Union. “Employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case,” Becker once wrote.

The NLRB is currently suing Arizona and South Dakota, seeking to invalidate their constitutional amendments banning card-check, a process that denies a worker a secret ballot. The NLRB has also threatened two other states with similar amendments: Utah and, yes, South Carolina.

Boeing has already poured millions into a South Carolina facility that will directly employ a thousand workers and indirectly support thousands more locals. At stake is whether businesses will be allowed to make business decisions, such as where to locate, or whether a union-government socialist hybrid calls the shots.


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