Since President Obama’s inauguration, he has led a concerted effort to revive union labor nationwide. Among his strongest allies is AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka. As Trumka was caught on tape bragging back in February, he is so welcome in the Obama White House that he visits two or three times a week and speaks with someone by phone there daily.
That’s far more access than several cabinet members enjoy. What is all this conversation about?
One likely topic is the National Labor Relations Board and its action against Boeing. That case centers on the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and its complaint that Boeing established a plant to manufacture 787 Dreamliners in South Carolina. The planes are already being made at Boeing’s plant in Washington State, but labor strikes over the years have made it increasingly difficult to keep the production line on schedule and labor costs overall have increased. Washington is a union state, therefore workers on the line are compelled to join and are compelled to support IAM strikes.
Boeing’s South Carolina plant does not replace the Washington plant. It is in addition to that plant, and Boeing told the union ahead of time that it was establishing the plant to take advantage of South Carolina’s more favorable economic climate. That climate includes South Carolina’s right to work law, which among other things help ensure that the plant can meet its schedule of producing seven Dreamliners per month. It is also cheaper overall to do business in South Carolina versus Washington State. South Carolina has made decisions as a state to make itself more competitive, to attract and keep jobs for its citizens. That is good government in action.
There is nothing wrong or illegal about any of Boeing’s actions. But the IAM complained in 2007 and the case got a ruling from the NRLB in April 2011. The NRLB ruled in favor of the union and against Boeing, finding:
In repeated statements to employees and the media, company executives cited the unionized employees’ past strike activity and the possibility of strikes occurring sometime in the future as the overriding factors in deciding to locate the second line in the non-union facility. The NLRB launched an investigation of the transfer of second line work in response to charges filed by the Machinists union and found reasonable cause to believe that Boeing had violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act because its statements were coercive to employees and its actions were motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strikes and chill future strike activity.
There is nothing illegal in any of that, but the NLRB ruling threatens Boeing’s plans and stands to cost it millions both to defend itself and in production delays. That may in turn threaten Boeing’s contracts with its customers. It also threatens hundreds of jobs in South Carolina, at a time when we need every job that can be created. And it threatens to destroy state right to work laws in a single shot.
While the GOP controlled US House is considering passing a national right to work law to shore up state level laws, Senate Republicans are gearing up to find out how the NLRB arrived at its conclusion in the Boeing case. That should not be difficult. Among President Obama’s more controversial appointments is Craig Becker. Mr. Becker is a former lawyer for the SEIU, the purple clad union that is, along with the discredited ACORN, among the president’s favorite political operations. He even declared that that union’s agenda is his agenda. Obama has made good on that, elevating former SEIU head Andy Stern to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. Obama appointed Becker to NLRB as a recess appointment in May 2010, so Congress never got the chance to vet him or find out how he would influence the board. Becker’s view of unions is not one that favors individual choice: He supports forcing workers into unions, via card check or destroying state level right to work laws. Stern shares those views, and Obama has appointed both to positions of power.
Beyond Becker, there remains Richard Trumka, the man who spends a lot of time either at the White House or on the phone with someone there. He heads up the AFL-CIO, which is affiliated with the union at the center of the Boeing controversy: the not so great IAM.
Trumka and his fellow union bosses spend by their own estimate about a half a billion dollars on politics. They don’t do that for nothing. They have bought positions in and access to the Obama administration. In Wisconsin, they bought the president’s overt and then tacit support for the fleebaggers. And nationally, they’re buying the National Labor Relations Board, which has issued a ruling that threatens state right to work laws everywhere if it is allowed to stand. It’s possible that the NLRB ruling could indirectly force unionization on the 23 states that have right to work laws, which would revive union labor by force after decades of declining union membership nationwide. The Boeing case may set a precedent for ruling against a corporation for the sin of seeking out states with friendly economic climates, which these days tend to be the right to work states.
All this tells us what Mr. Trumka discusses so regularly with the White House: Their next move in the quest to destroy Americans’ right to live and work as free of Big Labor as they want.
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