Boeing vs. the NLRB: A Naked Power Grab by Radical Pro-Unionists

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) contends that President Obama’s chief of staff, Bill Daley, threatened and made coercive statements against Boeing employees.

You haven’t heard about these charges?

Daley was on Boeing’s board of directors when the company unanimously decided to open up a second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, S.C. The NLRB argues this illegally violated the rights of Boeing’s unionized employees. The complaint against Boeing thus implicates Daley in any supposed wrongdoing — although the mainstream media has avoided mentioning this.

Of course, anyone familiar with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) will tell you that the NLRB’s charges have no merit. Daley would have never got past White House vetting otherwise.

In short, Boeing made a legal business decision that unions opposed, and the NLRB is using this as a pretext to unlawfully expand its power.

Boeing currently builds 787s in unionized Washington state, and its customers love the plane. Demand is so strong, the company needed to build a second assembly line. Boeing decided to locate this second line in South Carolina instead of Washington state.

This was a sound business decision. South Carolina offered Boeing $900 million in tax-incentives, has better tort laws, and is geographically closer to many suppliers. South Carolina is also a right-to-work state with few union members. Building in Charleston dramatically reduces the risk of strikes -- a real benefit since the International Association of Machinists (IAM) regularly launches expensive strikes in Washington.

So Boeing decided to build its new plant in South Carolina -- and the IAM objected. After a two-year wait, during which Boeing spent $2 billion, the NLRB recently filed a complaint. The NLRB contends that Boeing illegally “transferred work” from Washington in “retaliation” for the IAM’s strikes.

Contrary to the NLRB’s unsupported claims, the government cannot tell companies where they can and cannot create jobs. Even on their own terms, the NLRB’s dubious charges do not pass legal muster.

Boeing’s actions can’t be characterized as a “reprisal” against the union when Boeing is not closing its existing Washington plant or “transferring” work from it. No members of the union are losing their jobs.  Boeing is simply creating new production capabilities in a second facility in South Carolina. The NLRB’s own regional director, Richard Ahearn, admitted this. As if this weren’t enough, the union’s collective bargaining agreement expressly states that Boeing can build new assembly lines wherever it chooses.

The NLRB says Boeing CEO Jim McNerney engaged in anti-union activity by stating in an interview that recurring strikes by the union factored into Boeing’s decision. The First Amendment protects Boeing executives’ freedom to say this. After five strikes over the past 35 years, Boeing was confronted with repeated lapses in productivity that hampered its ability to deliver promised products on time. This is an economic reality that Boeing must consider when investing in new facilities.