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NLRB Hearing in House Today

By | America's Business, Economy, Labor Unions | No Comments

The House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions held a hearing today about the NLRB.  Here’s an excerpt from Chairman Phil Roe’s opening statement:

The action taken by the National Labor Relations Board against The Boeing Company is a good example. While the facts are still in dispute, the outcome of the case may significantly alter the manner in which employers invest in our economy and our workforce. I recognize the case is in the early stages of what will be costly litigation. But I wonder if anyone seriously doubts the tremendous implications this case poses to our workforce, and could possibly deny Congress’ responsibility to consider those implications, ask questions, and determine what is in the best interest of our workers and their families.

Although this is just one of many cases presented to the NLRB, we must remember the board does not operate in a vacuum. It is an arm of the federal government, and its decisions govern virtually every private workplace in the nation. That is tremendous power that comes with a great responsibility to act on behalf of the public good. I am concerned the board has jettisoned this responsibility over the last two years in favor of an activist agenda designed to advance the cause of Big Labor over  the rights of every day workers.

You can watch the hearing hereBloomberg covered the hearing; read its report here.

NLRB: Don’t Litigate Boeing in Public! That’s Our Job.

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions | One Comment

Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel, National Labor Relations Board, May 9, 2011, statement on Boeing case: “We hope all interested parties respect the legal process, rather than trying to litigate this case in the media and public arena.

Nancy Cleeland, NLRB spokeswoman, interview with The Street, May 18, 2011:

“We are not telling Boeing they can’t build planes in South Carolina,” Cleeland clarified, in an interview. “We are talking about one specific piece of work: three planes a month. If they keep those three planes a month in Washington, there is no problem.” Beyond the ten planes, she said, Boeing could build whatever it wants in South Carolina.

Cleeland said the hysteria ought to be tamped down because the ruling’s implications are not as broad as opponents seem to believe.

It’s arrogance for a government agency to tell its critics to shut up and let the process work, and then comment about how those critics are being hysterical. Very arrogant.

No Signs of Abating: Furor Over NLRB’s Complaint Against Boeing

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions | One Comment


  • Three House members from South Carolina took to the House floor Monday to express their opposition to the National Labor Relations Board’s unprecedented complaint against Boeing for locating new production facilities for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina instead of unionized Washington State. The remarks by Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney are available here.
  • Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, presented a well-structured, vigorous defense of the NLRB on the Boeing issue in his speech last week at the National Press Club. Trumka said: “While Boeing and the Chamber of Commerce may not like it, the law of the land protects working people who exercise that right against any retaliation by their employers.” And that was it. Reporters did not follow up in the Q&A, showing more interest in football.
  • The issue is playing nationally. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a strong supporter of manufacturing, raised the NLRB issue in remarks last week at the Marietta Rotary Club. He said: “The National Labor Relations Board has moved in a destructive direction in regards to job creation, not just in favoring unions, but in telling airplane manufacturer Boeing that it was proposing not to all allow it to move a manufacturing facility from Washington, which is pro-union, to South Carolina, which is a right-to-work state, because it would, ‘harm union activities.’ Boeing has determined it works best for them to move part of its manufacturing capability to South Carolina. Think about what that means. Washington power brokers can pick winners and losers.”

The Economist: President Should Condemn the ‘Loony-Left’ NLRB

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions, Transportation | No Comments

From a leader (editorial) in the latest Economist, “Don’t bully Boeing, Barack,” with the secondary headline, “Want to prove you are ‘pro-business’? Condemn a loony-left complaint against America’s biggest exporter.”

The NLRB is an autonomous body, but its board members are appointed by the president. Under a Democratic president, American businesses expect a more pro-union line, but the agency’s recent militancy is shocking, reminiscent of “loony-left” posturing in Britain in the 1970s. Not only does the agency in effect claim the power to tell firms where they may build factories. It is also suing two states (Arizona and South Dakota) where voters have decided that workers should be guaranteed a secret-ballot election before their workplace is unionised. Mr Obama has so far said nothing about any of these cases. The president claims he understands business. Condemning the NLRB would be a good way to prove it.

The magazine also covers the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against Boeing in an article, “A watchdog bites: A federal agency bashes Boeing“:

Businesspeople everywhere in America are stunned. Employers have a constitutional right to whinge about unions (and vice versa). They are not allowed to punish strikers—by sacking them, for example. But Boeing has done nothing of the sort. No work has been transferred from Boeing’s Puget Sound plant to South Carolina, nor have any IAM members lost their jobs. In 2007 Boeing announced that it would build seven 787s per month in Puget Sound; two years later, to handle the backlog of orders, it announced an expansion to South Carolina. The backlog is so large that Boeing is increasing its workforce at Puget Sound, not cutting it.

We’d like to see a First Amendment expert address the issue mentioned above, the constitutional right to criticize labor. Articles and blog posts have raised the issue, but we have yet to see a full examination of the free speech implication in the NLRB’s complaint.

On Boeing, Defending NLRB’s ‘Process’ Fails as Serious Argument

By | Briefly Legal, General, Labor Unions, Transportation | No Comments

Few Democratic members of Congress have spoken up on the National Labor Relations Board’s unprecedented and extreme complaint against The Boeing Company for making a reasonable, legitimate management decision by building new production facilities in South Carolina. It’s a tough decision to defend, so those commenting have relied on a “process” argument — let the process work.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the NLRB as an example of the “checks and balances” envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) levied accusations, claiming, “Powerful corporate interests are pressuring Members of this body to interfere with an independent agency rather than letting it run its course.”

On Thursday, it was Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s turn to come to the Senate floor to defend the NLRB. The Connecticut Democrat made the most coherent, seriously framed argument based on process we’ve seen: “The NLRB and Lafe Solomon, the acting general counsel, have not only the right but the responsibility to investigate and act where the facts and the law establish a right and obligation to do so. So no one should be trying to prejudge this case before it goes before the administrative judge, and no one should be seeking a pass from the appropriate process, and no one should be seeking to intimidate or to interfere with this lawful proceeding. I come to the floor today because of the prospect of exactly that danger  occurring.”

Yet one specific example Blumenthal cites is the decision by Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) of the House Oversight Committee to request documents on the Boeing complaint from the NLRB. But that’s the only example. Otherwise, the Senator seems to objecting to other elected officials publicly criticizing a federal agency.

These actions and some others are an attack on the integrity of the NLRB, an attack on its ability to make decisions and enforce the law as the Congress has instructed it and required it to do based on decisions involving the facts and the law alone. The NLRB is part of our justice system, and it should be given the opportunity to do justice in this instance. It should be given the opportunity to protect fairness and peace at the workplace, which is ultimately its mandate and its very solemn responsibility, and its tradition.

The NLRB is part of our justice system? Really? It does not behave that way. You have the NLRB’s public affairs office issuing press releases announcing the agency’s rulings against business and posting “Fact Checks” that are just political spin. Lafe Solomon commented publicly on the case, restating Boeing’s supposed offenses, before he retreated behind the protection of “let the process work.”

The agency is behaving as a political actor, and the complaint against Boeing is so at odds with the board’s mandate, solemn responsibility and tradition — to use Blumenthal’s terms — that silence would be an abdication of Congress’ oversight and policymaking responsibilities. If the NLRB’s complaint stands, the federal government will replace management in determining company locations and hiring. Such a radical restructuring of the U.S. economy and such an extreme expansion of federal power is at heart a policy matter, which in our system of government is the purview of Congress.

When an agency runs amok like the NLRB has done, it has abandoned process. That’s why the process arguments made by its defenders are just beside the point.

Former Democratic NLRB Member Decries Boeing Complaint

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions | No Comments

Rounding up the most recent news and commentary about the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against The Boeing Company for locating new production facilities in South Carolina instead of the unionized Puget Sound region…

At Slate.com, Dave Weigel interviews Bill Gould, a former Democratic member appointed to the NLRB by President Clinton. From “Air Rage

“The Boeing case is unprecedented,” he says. “I agree with much of what this board has done and is likely to do, but I don’t agree with what the general counsel has done in the Boeing case. The general counsel is trying to equate an employer’s concern with strikes that disrupt production and make it difficult to make deadlines—he’s trying to equate that with hostility toward trade unionism. I don’t think that makes sense.”

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt asks Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about NLRB’s move against Boeing.

MM: Unbelievable, isn’t it? The federal government is now, through the NLRB, going to tell you where you can locate your plant. You know, a lot of these big, global businesses, their response to that might be well, I’ll locate my plant in Mexico. I mean, I think that this is truly outrageous. This is the same administration who has now tried to introduce politics into the procurement process by making people who do business with the government reveal their political support for candidates. This is a Chicago-style thuggish administration. In other words, agree with us, or we’ll find a way to punish you. Read More

Questions for AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka at the Press Club

By | Energy, Labor Unions | One Comment

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks at a National Press Club luncheon on Friday, an appearance billed thusly:

Trumka will speak out on recent efforts to curb collective bargaining rights in several states, including Wisconsin and Ohio. He also will discuss the political outlook for the 2012 elections, and the impact of austerity budgets on local, state and federal workers.

All good topics. Here are a few others that the reporters could raise during the Q&A period that traditionally follows Press Club remarks.

  • In a January 2010 National Press Club appearance you said: “I think you will see the Employee Free Choice Act pass in the first quarter of 2010.” And …”The president fully supports the Employee Free Choice Act, the Vice President fully supports the Employee Free Choice Act, a vast majority of the members of the House support the Employee Free Choice Act, a vast majority of the people of the Senate support the Employee Free Choice Act. And I think we are going to have the Employee Free Choice Act despite the determined efforts of the Republican Party.” So were you shining us on, deceiving your membership for tactical reasons, or are you just a lousy prognosticator? Did the failure of card check reflect organized labor’s lack of political influence? Your own lack of influence?

  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses anti-coal crowd at April rally. (Photo: Energy Action Coalition)

  • You began your career as a coal miner and served as President of the United Mine Workers before being elected to head the AFL-CIO. Yet at an April “Power Shift” rally in front of the White House, you joined environmental activists in demanding “clean energy” policies in which coal has no role. Demonstrators held signs declaring “Coal is Over” and “No More Coal!” (More photos here and here.) How can you, as a union president, make common cause with activists who want to shut down the coal industry?

  • AFL-CIO affiliated unions are members of the Blue-Green Alliance, which includes such organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Many people regard these groups as hostile to the industrial base of this nation’s economy. How do you reconcile union support for this alliance? According to a Department of Commerce study, green products and services account for at most 2 percent of private sector activity. How you can justify spending member dues on groups who have such a narrow focus and whose policies would eliminate unionized jobs in the energy and manufacturing sectors?

  • Do you believe nuclear power has a role in America’s future energy production? Because AFL-CIO member unions are sending member dues to a group that includes the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the major opponents of nuclear energy.

  • Should a company that currently has unionized operations in a state ever be allowed to locate new operations in a right-to-work state?

Sen. Alexander: NLRB’s Boeing Complaint Helps Send Jobs Overseas

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions | One Comment

In a Senate floor speech Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) discussed U.S. competitiveness and the trend of “on-shoring” manufacturing jobs as described in the recent Economist article, “Moving back to America –The dwindling allure of building factories offshore.”

Unfortunately, the health care law adds to business costs, and the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, Alexander noted. Now, the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against The Boeing Company sends a clear signal to large companies: Beware doing business in a United States burdened by this kind of anti-competitive government action.

[We] have a regulation from the National Labor Relations Board that may have the effect of law for 2 to 5 years that says it is prima facie evidence of an unfair labor practice if a company that is producing in a union State expands or moves to a right-to-work State. This is an assault on every middle-income Tennessean and on millions of middle-income Americans who have manufacturing jobs–certainly, everyone in the 22 right-to-work States. But as the Boeing chief executive said, it could be just as much of a disincentive to a State such as Michigan or Illinois or some other State that does not have a right-to-work law because why would you put a plant in Michigan if later you would not be allowed to put it in Tennessee? Read More

No Abeyance in Protests Against NLRB’s Boeing Complaint

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions, Transportation | One Comment

How could we have gone three days without a post on the radicalized National Labor Relations Board? Well, there really have been few developments after last Thursday’s hearing in the Senate HELP Committee, “The Endangered Middle Class: Is the American Dream Slipping Out of Reach for American Families?,” which turned into a hearing on Boeing and the NLRB.

Mostly the story has percolated as new columnists catch up on the issue, as in George Will’s excellent piece over the weekend, “The Dreamliner nightmare.” (Datelined North Charleston, S.C., which means he was there. We saw Will rushing through Union Station last week, looking quite fit for a scribe who just celebrated his 70th birthday. Congratulations!)

The major substantive development was the introduction of S. 964, the Job Protection Act, by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on Thursday, May 12. In his floor speech (here), Alexander explained:

The Job Protection Act, which I introduce today on behalf of 34 Senators, would preserve the Federal law’s current protection of State right-to-work laws in the National Labor Relations Act and provide necessary clarity to prevent the NLRB from moving forward in their case against Boeing or attempting a similar strategy against other companies.

Specifically, the Job Protection Act would, first, explicitly clarify that the board cannot order an employer to relocate jobs from one location to another; two, it guarantees an employer the right to decide where to do business within the United States; and, three, it protects an employer’s free speech regarding the costs associated with having a unionized workforce without fear of such communication being used as evidence in an anti-union discrimination suit.

Sen. Alexander announced general plans for the bill on May 4, and it appears he and his colleagues used the time since to craft a solid piece of legislation.

We appreciate the Senator’s mention of the First Amendment protections, a underreported part of this controversy. The NLRB seeks to punish Boeing in part because several top executives spoke openly about the business costs of labor disruptions. If the board’s complaint stands, company executives could be deprived of their rights to say things like, “We’re concerned that a strike could make it hard to deliver our products and make us less competitive.” That’s not a threat of retaliation, that’s a statement of opinion that should always be protected free speech.

Elsewhere, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. In a discussion of the 2012 campaigns and Republican candidates, she also repeated her call for a comment on the NLRB’s complaint from President Obama. Read More

After Boeing Complaint, NLRB Plans Even More Aggressive Action

By | Briefly Legal, Economy, Labor Unions, Transportation | 2 Comments

Hans von Spakovsky and James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation break disturbing news about the radicalized National Labor Relations Board in a post at NRO’s The Corner blog, “The New NLRB: Boeing Is Just the Beginning”:

An internal NLRB memorandum, dated May 10, shows that the board wants to give unions much greater power over employers and their investment and management decisions.

Under current NLRB rules, companies can make major business decisions (like relocating a plant) without negotiating with their union — as long as those changes are not primarily made to reduce labor costs. For example, a business can unilaterally merge several smaller operations into one larger facility to achieve administrative efficiencies. Companies only have to negotiate working conditions, not their business plans.

The NLRB apparently intends to change that. In the internal memorandum, the board’s associate general counsel, Richard Siegel, asks the NLRB’s regional directors to flag such business-relocation cases. Siegel explains that the Board is considering “whether to propose a new standard” in these situations because the chairman of the NLRB, Wilma Liebman, has expressed her desire to “revisit existing law in this area” by modifying the rule established in a case called Dubuque Packing…. Read More