How far is the Obama administration willing to go to promote organized labor's agenda? The National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) recent decisions to pursue legal action against a private company and some state governments provide an answer to that question.
On April 20, NLRB Acting Genral Counsel Lafe Solomon (who is recess-appointed and has not been confirmed by the Senate) issued a formal complaint against Boeing for deciding to build some of its new 787 Dreamliner jets in a new facility in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
Only two days later, Solomon wrote to the state attorneys general (AGs) of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah, threatening to sue their states over their enactment of constitutional amendments protecting the right to a secret ballot in union elections. Those amendments preclude card check, which exposes workers to high-pressure tactics by union organizers who can then ask them to sign union cards out in the open.
Telling businesses where they may locate their facilities and states how they may amend their constitutions are, to put it mildly, highly unusual attempts to stretch federal power. But such abuse of the NLRB's remit may be the best vehicle that Obama now has to reward his union allies -- whose suport he will need in his 2012 reelection effort -- following the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections.
Quite simply, this is unionization through regulation, whereby regulatory agencies circumvent Congress by "reinterpreting" the law beyond recognition.
Encouraginly, state officials are not taking this federal assault sitting down. In today's Wall Street Journal, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley denounces the NLRB's action against Boeing, calling it "a direct assault on the 22 right-to-work states across America." Also this week, the four state AGs whom Solomon threatened responded to him. In a strongly worded letter, they unequivocally state their intent to defend their states' laws if those are challenged.
In addition to undermining the rule of law -- which is bad enough -- the NLRB's actions are economic insanity. In Forbes this week, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association of America, explains it well.
Our federal government has become the enemy of job creators. Look at the facts here: South Carolina's Dreamliner production line would be in addition to, not instead of, Boeing's production line in Seattle. Boeing is already facing a backlog of orders for the plane, and this NLRB action, if not reversed soon, will certainly cause it to lose orders for these American-built planes. The NLRB apparently wants the second line to also be produced in the Puget Sound area - also silly if you see what too much concentration of production capacity in one venue can do (witness the Sendai area in Japan). The greatest irony is that if Boeing had put this facility in Canada or even in China the NLRB probably could not have ordered its shutdown (but who knows given their perverse interpretation of the law).
But what are a few thousand destroyed jobs and legal chaos when there are unions to bail out?