Boeing's South Carolina move: Illegal union bashing or just good business?
Presidential politics and anti-union sentiments are fueling a growing debate over the NLRB's complaint against Boeing for moving part of its Dreamliner assembly line to South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
A brewing battle between the National Labor Relations Board and Boeing Co. over its plans to open a major manufacturing facility in South Carolina is being infused with new energy from a volatile mix of presidential politics and competition between pro- and anti-union states for precious jobs in a still struggling economy.Skip to next paragraph
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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and top Republicans called on President Obama Tuesday to pressure the NLRB to drop its recent allegations that Boeing, the nation's largest manufacturer, broke federal labor laws when it decided to move part of its Dreamliner line to the South Carolina Low Country instead of bolstering production of the new plane at the company's main Puget Sound, Wash., plant.
"We are demanding that the president respond to what the NLRB has done," Governor Haley told reporters in Washington. "This goes against everything we know our American economy to be."
The NLRB's general counsel, Lafe Solomon, has alleged in a complaint that Boeing attempted to intimidate and threaten union workers by citing recent strikes as part of the decision to build the plant in South Carolina, a state that doesn't allowed closed union shops. But at a Chamber of Commerce roundtable Tuesday, Republicans attempted to seize on the move as not only an ill-timed and "unprecedented" attack on American industry, but as a stake in the ground for a brewing battle of political will between industrial, and largely union-friendly, Northern states and the 22 "right-to-work" states in the South and West.
"On one side you've got presidential politics and the labor movement's strained relationship with the Democrats, and on the other side you have states' rights, free enterprise and sweeping antiunion sentiments," says Gary Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University, in Worcester, Mass. "It's an incredibly volatile mixture."