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COLUMN: Beyond the politics of NLRB's actions
From the mountains of the Upstate to the beaches of the Lowcountry, South Carolina is full of natural beauty. It is home to hard-working, loyal, kindhearted and resilient people. South Carolina has wonderful schools, a world-class port, vibrant research universities and highly regarded hospitals and medical centers. South Carolinians are among the first to help other states when calamity strikes. The people of the Palmetto State are proud, brave and, as the National Labor Relations Board, is soon to realize, not easily intimidated.
Which brings us to the NLRB and its recent interactions with the state of South Carolina.
In October 2009, following surging global demand for its new 787 Dreamliner, Boeing decided to open an additional facility in Charleston, S.C., to manufacture a second line of Dreamliners. More than a year after the decision was made, when construction of a 1 million-square-foot structure was nearly completed, and after more than 1,000 South Carolinians had been employed, the NLRB decided to file a complaint against Boeing with the ancillary impact of shutting down the Charleston facility.
In examining this action, it is important to first note what is not at issue. There is no credible evidence Boeing failed to negotiate in good faith with the union. Even the NLRB does not dispute this fact.
Further, no existing jobs will be moved from Washington state to South Carolina. For the sake of emphasis that bears repeating: No existing work will be moved from the union Washington site to the new South Carolina site. This is not, as many on the other side argue, a “transfer” of work. It is a new line of work, created in response to increased demand for Boeing’s revolutionary airplane. One that was competitively granted after a fair, legal process that took into account many economic factors, ranging from the phenomenal successes of companies like BMW in Spartanburg/Greenville and Michelin in Lexington to our state’s right-to-work protections.
Not one single union employee suffered a detriment as a result of Boeing’s decision. Not one union employee lost a job or was denied a benefit. To the contrary, 2,000 jobs have been added in Washington since the new South Carolina facility was announced. Despite these uncontroverted facts, the NLRB is seeking to tell Boeing where it can and cannot create additional jobs and lines of work. Let this serve as a warning to all employers across the country: If you build a plant or facility in a union state, you run the risk of never being able to relocate or expand to a right-to-work state.
While it is easy to get distracted by the political motivations of the NLRB’s complaint, it is fundamentally imperative to examine the law. And the law is clear. Employers are permitted to make predictions on future economic circumstances as long as the circumstances are demonstrably probable. This right, guaranteed by the Supreme Court of the United States, allows companies to make economic-based decisions calculated to increase efficiency and productivity — laudable considerations in such an austere fiscal environment.
So is it probable that there would be labor stoppages in Washington, and that such strikes might have an economic impact on the company? Obviously so. Since 1989, Boeing’s Washington factory has had four work stoppages, including one in 2005 and a two-month strike in 2008. These stoppages have caused prominent Boeing customers to voice their concerns over the continued threat of work stoppages and go so far as to reconsider whether to continue doing business with Boeing.
Despite congressional intent and clear Supreme Court jurisprudence, union leadership and unelected NLRB attorneys are now seeking to become managing partners in the business affairs of American companies. South Carolina is confident Boeing will be vindicated in a court of law. However, the NLRB’s jurisdictional overreach, coupled with its brazen activism, threatens the future allocation of work by American companies. Worst of all, it comes at a time when we should be doing everything in our power to stem the tide of American jobs being funneled overseas.
At a time when union membership is at a historic low, unions and their taxpayer-subsidized counsel seek to influence this administration in historically high fashion. This nation needs to come together and face the great challenges of our time. However, many in this administration are seeking to benefit from the politics of class, generational and, now, regional conflict. And then there are those of us protecting the very free-market principles and right-to-work laws that have sustained America’s competitiveness since our country’s founding.
Reps. Joe Wilson and Trey Gowdy, both South Carolina Republicans, serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.