It's not that surprising to see a union complaining about a company that decided to expand operations in a Right-to-Work state, rather than its traditional base of operations, when talks with the union break down. But as far as I know, it's pretty damn unusual to have the National Labor Relations Board say that this is illegal:
So Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere. In October 2009, the company settled on South Carolina, which, like the 21 other right-to-work states, has friendlier labor laws than Washington. As Boeing chief Jim McNerney noted on a conference call at the time, the company couldn't have "strikes happening every three to four years." The union has shut down Boeing's commercial aircraft production line four times since 1989, and a 58-day strike in 2008 cost the company $1.8 billion.
This reasonable business decision created more than 1,000 jobs and has brought around $2 billion of investment to South Carolina. The aerospace workers in Puget Sound remain among the best paid in America, but the union nonetheless asked the NLRB to stop Boeing's plans before the company starts to assemble planes in North Charleston this July.
The NLRB obliged with its complaint yesterday asking an administrative law judge to stop Boeing's South Carolina production because its executives had cited the risk of strikes as a reason for the move. Boeing acted out of "anti-union animus," says the complaint by acting general counsel Lafe Solomon, and its decision to move had the effect of "discouraging membership in a labor organization" and thus violates federal law.
This seems crazy. Boeing does not seem to have claimed that it was trying to break the union; it said it was moving to seek a more amenable labor force. As far as I know, that's not against the law, even if unions wish it were. Companies have been moving south for decades to get a better tax and labor environment. For the NLRB to declare that companies have no right to move would be tantamount to declaring that they are legally captive to whatever the local unions and governments care to dole out. And to do so based on a chance remark at a conference call seems particularly insane.
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