On April 20, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against The Boeing Co. seeking to force the aerospace giant to bring an airplane assembly line back to its unionized facilities in Washington instead of moving the work to a nonunion plant in South Carolina.
In the complaint, the NLRB said Boeing’s decision to transfer a second assembly line for the 787 to a new plant under construction in North Charleston, SC, was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) for past strikes in Washington.
In a statement, Boeing vowed to “vigorously contest” the complaint. “This claim is legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent,” said J. Michael Luttig, Boeing’s executive vice president and general counsel. “Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region.”
We couldn’t agree more. With the nation’s unemployment rate seemingly pegged at 9 percent, we can’t imagine why the Obama Administration would discourage manufacturers from building assembly plants anywhere in the United States for any reason.
Regardless of Boeing’s motivation for setting up shop in North Charleston, the plant is a fait accompli. Production is scheduled to start in July, and 1,000 employees have already been hired. What’s more, none of those jobs have come at the expense of jobs in Washington. Indeed, Boeing has actually increased unionized employment in Puget Sound by 2,000 since it announced the decision to build in South Carolina.
It’s also worth noting that-just two days prior to the NLRB’s announcement-Boeing and Aviation Industries Corp. of China opened a massive new factory in Tianjin, China. Rather than file a pointless lawsuit against Boeing, the Administration should be doing everything possible to encourage the company to build more U.S. facilities. Our nation’s largest employers hardly need additional incentive to offshore manufacturing.
As for the IAM, it appears to be its own worst enemy. Last November, Olin Corp. announced that it was moving an ammunition assembly plant-and 1,000 jobs-from Alton, IL, to Oxford, MS. Although Olin received generous tax incentives from Mississippi, the company’s adverse relationship with the union played a major role in the decision. In fact, Olin announced the move just one day after IAM members rejected a second contract offer that would have guaranteed seven years of job security.
It’s no coincidence that right-to-work states, such as South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, have landed several major manufacturing facilities over the past few years, including four automotive assembly plants. Meanwhile, states without such laws-particularly in the Midwest and Northeast-have lost out. We hope the governors of those states have taken notice.