House Republicans on Thursday pressed to rein in the National Labor Relations Board in its fight to stop a nonunion factory being built by aerospace giant Boeing, pushing forward a bill that would eliminate the regulator's authority to oversee private business decisions on investment and where companies can relocate.
The House Committee on Education and the Workplace voted 23-16 to bring the bill to the floor, following a Thursday-morning markup. Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, who is the panel's chairman, said he expects a floor vote by the full House next week.
The NLRB filed an action in April to prevent the opening of the massive $750 million new plant near Charleston, S.C., intended to build Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, contending the company was illegally punishing its union workers in its Washington state manufacturing base by opening the new plant.
"This is the economic death penalty for workers," Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, told the committee. NLRB officials "have abused this remedy, and they should lose it."
Added Mr. Kline: "Creating an environment hostile to American job creation at a time when 14 million workers are unemployed is unacceptable. We simply cannot allow federal bureaucrats to reverse the business decisions of employers."
Republicans on the panel argued that the NLRB has plenty of other punishments to use against companies that violate labor laws, such as awarding back pay and giving workers who lose their jobs first priority at the new facility.
But Democrats on the committee said these remedies are virtually useless, and they fear this bill would open the door for companies to move overseas.
Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, who is the committee's ranking member, said the bill would "pull the rug out from under some American workers."
"This bill presents American workers with a choice: You can have your rights, or you can have your job," he said. "It makes it much easier to play American workers against each other in a race to the bottom."
The NLRB, an independent agency but one with a majority of Democratic appointees on its board, has become a partisan flash point since the big Republican gains in November's midterm elections.
Boeing, backed by a broad array of business groups, is fighting the NLRB action. The company points out that it has added thousands of jobs in Washington state, even since it moved the second facility to South Carolina. However, bringing that work back to Washington state would force Boeing — which has high demand but is dealing with supply problems — to close shop and cut thousands of new jobs in North Charleston.
The case is being heard in a Seattle court right now. From there, it could go to the NLRB board, and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The issue has divided lawmakers along partisan lines. Republicans have come to the defense of Boeing, while Democrats argue that Congress should not interfere while the administrative process is under way.
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