Luttig emphasized that a union strike in 2008 in Washington shut down production of the 787, costing Boeing more than a billion dollars and “damaging Boeing’s reputation for reliability with its airline customers, suppliers, and investors.” Boeing took into account many different factors in making a major assembly investment decision, and the recurring strikes in Washington was just one of them.
This action by the pro-union NLRB is an abuse of the applicable law and precedent, and seems to be a political move made to placate the unions that will be crucial to the election efforts of Democrats next year, including President Obama. It is also an attack on right-to-work states like South Carolina.
The NLRB action has raised the ire of everyone from the governor and Representative Joe Wilson, to Senators Jim DeMint and Lamar Alexander. Luttig’s testimony made the NLRB the focus of the hearing, something that would otherwise not have happened because Harkin would never have called a hearing to specifically discuss this issue.
Harkin was clearly annoyed at the turn that the hearing took. He muttered about his coal mining father and the unfair attacks on unions and the NLRB. But the political danger of the NLRB action was demonstrated by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who given his background in suing corporations, is not generally seen as “pro-business.”
Blumenthal went out of his way to be nice to Luttig and Boeing, the biggest American export company with $29 billion in overseas sales in 2009. That might also be due to the fact that Boeing suppliers spend more than a billion dollars in Connecticut.
Al Franken made a late appearance and demonstrated, once again, why Saturday Night Live suits him better than the United States Senate. Franken got angry and said it is untrue that anyone is ever forced to join a union. He obviously never worked in the produce section at Shop ‘n Save in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In a closed-shop state like Pennsylvania, the laws require employees to be members of a union if the employer is unionized. Enzi quipped, in response to Franken’s error, that you wouldn’t have to join a union unless “you wanted a job.”
While labor bosses like what the NLRB is doing, Democrats are starting to realize that this attack on Boeing and the thousands of high-paying jobs it is creating is a political handicap that may dog them all the way to November 2012. Most Americans view the opening of additional assembly lines as a good thing in this economy. As Jennifer Rubin has blogged at the Washington Post, the NLRB has handed the Republicans a potent issue. If the NLRB persists with this attack on one of the nation’s major employers, the costs will not just be economic, but political as well.