- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

President Obama’s hand-picked appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are delivering favors to the administration’s Big Labor backers. In just the past two weeks, the board has taken steps to overturn the will of voters in two states and chill the speech of corporate chieftains who spoke out against the labor movement’s thuggish tactics.

On April 20, NLRB staff issued an “unfair labor practices” complaint against Boeing Co. for deciding to open a production line in a non-union state. The aerospace giant is expected Wednesday to file its response to the board blasting the charge as having no basis in law. Boeing has bet billions on the success of its latest product, the 787 Dreamliner. After a number of setbacks, the company is anxious to get this lighter and more fuel-efficient plane into the hands of its customers. “It’s really a great new American export,” Boeing spokesman Tim Neale told The Washington Times. “Most of those 800-plus planes that are on order currently are going outside the country.”

Any delay in meeting those orders will cost the firm big money. To meet the demand, Boeing needed more capacity than it had with its Puget Sound factories that can churn out seven 787s per month. Boeing officials considered expanding Washington state facilities, but union officials dug in and refused to guarantee production stability. So Boeing selected a non-union site in North Charleston, S.C., that will reliably assemble three planes each month, regardless of what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) do. The last time this union went on a 58-day strike in 2008, Boeing lost $1.8 billion.

It’s hard to understand why the firm doesn’t flee the Evergreen State entirely in favor of a more friendly right-to-work production centers. In fact, Boeing officials are quick to note they have done nothing to hurt the union. “We haven’t taken any jobs away from the IAM in Seattle,” Mr. Neale explained. “What we’ve done in South Carolina is add new production capacity.” Lafe Solomon, Mr. Obama’s pick for the general counsel job at NLRB, doesn’t see it that way. He essentially charged management with thought crime for complaining about the negative business impact of “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.” These statements, according to the NLRB filing, constituted “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights” under labor law. Mr. Solomon is demanding that Boeing officials issue a formal apology and move all 787 production from South Carolina to Washington state.

Attorneys general in nine right-to-work states blasted the unelected bureaucrat in a letter last week. “This unparalleled and overreaching action seeks to drive a stake through the heart of the free enterprise system,” they wrote. Yet that’s not even the worst of NLRB’s latest misdeeds. The board has announced it will sue the states of Arizona and South Dakota after voters in November approved ballot measures guaranteeing the right of citizens to secret ballots in union elections. NLRB goons aren’t just opposed to free enterprise and free speech, they’re attacking the democratic process itself.

The full NLRB board still needs to act before any sanctions can be imposed on Boeing, but the firm should never have been placed in the position of defending its right to choose where it does business. Earlier this year, House Republicans attempted to slice $50 million from NLRB’s $280 million budget. In tight fiscal times, it makes no sense for taxpayers to continue subsidizing thuggery.

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