The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against the Boeing Company on the grounds that the company’s relocation of its second airplane production line was motivated by discrimination toward union workers. If the NLRB’s case succeeds in federal court, it will set a precedent for union control of virtually every major business decision by American corporations.
Prior to October 2009, Boeing had planned to expand its production capabilities with an additional facility in the state of Washington. In recent years, the company had suffered billions in lost revenue and uncertainty of future orders due to multiple extended strikes orchestrated by the International Association of Machinists. Although it was not legally obligated to do so, Boeing invited IAM to the table in a bid to preserve their plans for local expansion without danger of future union disruption. Negotiations broke down upon union demands for Boeing neutrality in nationwide IAM campaigns and for all of the company’s future commercial airline manufacture to be located in Puget Sound. Having come to an impasse, Boeing subsequently decided to base its second production line in North Charleston, South Carolina (a Right-to-Work state).
In March 2010, the IAM filed a charge of “unfair labor practices” with the NLRB, the meat of their argument being that Boeing illegally changed factory locations out of animus against the union. On April 20th of this year, the NLRB published its own complaint against Boeing, citing several so-called “incidents” demonstrating the company’s bias. Three of them are merely newspaper reports, while only two are intramural documents and quotations. What the NLRB finds damning is their common account of Boeing’s business decision as a move to avoid future complications with uncooperative unions, which it undoubtedly was. The IAM, now joined by their shills at the NLRB, somehow interpret this fact as evidence that Boeing is using blind discrimination rather than plain fiscal sense to determine its corporate policy.
The NLRB’s pursuance of this case is a blatant attack on any business decision in the nation that somehow displeases Big Labor, as well as an affront to states like South Carolina which have taken a pro-business stance. Boeing has already poured millions into its North Charleston location, and thousands of locals stand to lose their jobs if the plant closes. The South Carolina plant took away no pre-existing jobs from Puget Sound residents; indeed, IAM has added 2000 members through increased employment in Boeing’s Washington operation. That the NLRB should show hostility towards states and businesses which fail to push unionization upon their workers is nothing new, but this expression of the trend is unprecedented: if it is in the best interest of your business to walk away from collective bargaining, the federal government will interpret this as irrational discrimination and destroy you. In the words of Senator Jim Demint (R-S.C.):
“There is no doubt that if the National Labor Relations Board’s claim against Boeing moves forward, it will have a chilling effect on job growth in my state and in right-to-work states across the country. Using the federal government as political weapon to protect union bosses at the expense of American jobs cannot be tolerated.”
Let us hope that congress indeed finds it intolerable. If, in the next ten or twenty years, union agitators discover that all of their employers have packed up and moved to China, they will have no one to blame but themselves.