NLRB’s Complaint Against Boeing Inspires Senators’ Legislation

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced on the floor of the Senate Tuesday that he and the two Senators from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, would be introducing legislation today inspired by the National Labor Relations Board’s unprecedented, unjustified complaint against Boeing for locating new production facilities in South Carolina.

Sen. Alexander said: “We are calling it the Right to Work Protection Act, and it is our intent to preserve the right of each State to make a decision for itself about whether it will have a right-to-work law and have an ability to enforce it. This is in direct response to an action that the National Labor Relations Board has taken against the Boeing Company and the plant they are building in South Carolina.”

In the floor discussion (transcript here), the Senators defended state right-to-work laws as one legitimate approach toward competing for new businesses, a choice that states should be able to make without being undermined by the federal government. Their legislation would add this paragraph to the National Labor Relations Act and the Railroad Labor Act:

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the application of any State law that prohibits, or otherwise places restraints upon, agreements between labor organizations and employers that make membership in the labor organization, or that require the payment of dues or fees to such organization, a condition of employment either before or after hiring.

Sen. Graham gave the background of Boeing’s decision to locate the company’s new assembly facilities in South Carolina instead of Washington State, the timeline of the complaint from the machinists union, and the lawsuit filed by the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon. (Embedded video). Excerpt:

All I can say is this complaint is frivolous. It is taking time and money away from creating jobs in South Carolina and Washington. And it has national implications. To Senator Alexander, you have found the right way for the Congress to address this issue. We are not forcing anybody to be a member of a union. We are just saying, if a State such as South Carolina or Tennessee chooses to be a right-to-work State, that cannot be held against them. This legislation would say to the country and the business community as a whole: When you look at where to locate, you can consider a right-to-work State without violating the law. That is an important concept.

I can assure you, Boeing came to South Carolina because it was the best business deal. They had a lot of choices. They chose South Carolina not to retaliate but to create a second line. And here is the logic of it: Would you put everything you own in one location in today’s world? So the idea that they expanded into the second plant in a different State, in a different location, makes perfect sense. The fact that South Carolina is a low-cost right-to-work State I am sure they considered. But under the law, no one in Washington lost one benefit they had. No one in Washington lost a job they already had with Boeing. The goal of this decision by Boeing is to grow their company. If we do well in South Carolina, Boeing does well in Washington.

This complaint is dangerous. This complaint is a dangerous road to go down. This complaint is politics at its worst. The law is designed to protect us, and it is being abused, in my view. Politics is about 50 plus 1. The law is something that should protect us all.

This complaint filed by the general counsel at the NLRB sets a dangerous precedent, and the Congress should speak. The administration should speak out and say this is frivolous; they are an independent agency; nobody can tell them what to do. But we have an independent duty to speak out in a constructive way.

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