Big Labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan rants against Boeing in his Wall Street Journal op-ed “Boeing’s Threat to American Enterprise,” calling the new 787 Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina “a dead bang violation of the National Labor Relations Act”—specifically, section 7 of the Wagner Act, passed in 1935, which states that all workers can engage in concerted activities without reprisal.
Clearly this piece of FDR-era legislation has to go. But where’s the violation? What Mr. Geoghegan fails to admit is that not one job has been lost at Boeing’s 787 assembly plant in Everett, Washington. I would say that keeping the Everett location fully staffed is evidence enough that Boeing is acting without reprisal.
In this economy, a company like Boeing cannot be faulted if it has found a better way to run its business. Adding production in a right-to-work (RTW) state such as South Carolina makes sense. RTW laws are business friendly and allow workers’ and employers’ interests to be aligned: create value for shareholders, increase the stock price, create job security for employees, and increase everyone’s wages. Maybe Mr. Geoghegan should spend less time opining and more time learning about the workers at BMW in RTW South Carolina, at Mercedes in RTW Alabama, or at Nissan in RTW Tennessee. There’s a reason companies have chosen to work in these RTW states.
Read the back of your iPhone, and you’ll see that media darling Apple has its products designed in California and assembled in China—because Steve Jobs has decided that’s the best value. It’s easy to ship the weightless software designed in California abroad, and it’s a breeze to import the small phones back home. But manufacturing plants for cars and airplanes are not quite as mobile as software. Profits, on the other hand, are very easy to ship, and they would flow out of the U.S. at an increased rate if Boeing were forced to employ overpriced Washington labor for all its Dreamliner assemblies. I can hear Airbus, Embraer, and Bombardier laughing all the way to the bank right now.
Boeing can’t be thrilled about sinking billions of additional dollars into another production line, but it’s cheaper than going abroad, for now. And as it stands, guys like Geoghegan make it too expensive to operate in non-RTW states. Perhaps to Mr. Geoghegan’s surprise, or perhaps not, the next stop for Boeing isn’t going to be back in Everett, Washington. The last stop for Boeing in America is South Carolina. After that, it will be overseas to a country that will happily take the jobs and leave American manufacturers handcuffed by an out-of-date Wagner Act that is costing Americans jobs at a time when too many Americans are without one.
Union Fast Track
The Obama National Labor Relations Board is proposing the most sweeping changes to the federal union election rules since 1947. The rules would “curb unnecessary litigation; streamline procedures before and after elections; and enable the use of electronic communications, such as requiring employers to give union organizers access to electronic files containing workers’ addresses and email addresses when available.”
As it stands today, companies have barely enough time to counter the assault of a union-organizing campaign. The median time is 38 days. This new plan could compress union elections to around 10 to 21 days. Meanwhile, unions can organize a campaign for months without a word, then spring it upon an employer.
This clearly comes at a time when union support is a must for Mr. Obama. He has the NLRB votes, especially that of controversial recess appointee Craig Becker, a longtime associate general counsel to SEIU. Becker was so controversial he even failed to get enough confirmation votes from a Democratic Congress.
The Obama campaign continues full speed ahead, with the Obama administration’s Labor Department announcing that employers should disclose more information about the consultants they hire to respond to union bargaining or organizing campaigns.
The Labor Department’s proposal is based on the interpretation of the word “advice” from the 1959 Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. In the past, only consultants that communicate directly with workers had to file a disclosure. The new rules require a consultant to file a disclosure if there is any communication on behalf of the employer to “directly or indirectly persuade workers concerning their rights to organize or bargain collectively.”
AFL-CIO general counsel Lynn Rhinehart said in a statement, “This is a common-sense proposal to close a gaping loophole.”
The motive behind the NLRB’s and Labor Department’s actions is clear. The Obama administration will go around Congress and govern businesses by fiat. These two examples, together with Boeing’s travails at the NLRB, are plain illustrations that the Obama administration wants a piece of your business even if it has to force its way in.