Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times
Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Boeing broke the law by moving production from a union facility in Pudget Sound, Wash., to a nonunion facility in North Charleston, S.C. It's yet another move that shows that General Counsel Lafe Solomon is dedicated to vigorously enforcing labor law in ways unlike recent NLRB general counsels.
in 2007, Boeing announced it would create a second production line to produce three 787 Dreamliner planes a month in the Pudget Sound, in addition to the production that was already occurring in Pudget Sound. Then in October 2009, it was announced that suddenly the company would move the second production line to a nonunion plant in South Carolina. Why the sudden move in production?
In 2008, workers at the Pudget Sound facility went out on a 58-day strike. A Boeing official told the Seattle Times, “The overriding factor was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.”
“Boeing’s decision to build a 787 assembly line in South Carolina sent a message that Boeing workers would suffer financial harm for exercising their collective bargaining rights,” International Association of Machinists (IAM) Vice President Rich Michalski said.“Federal labor law is clear: it’s illegal to threaten or penalize workers who engage in concerted activity, and it’s illegal in all 50 states.”
Solomon determined that such changes were unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act; he is seeking an order that would require Boeing to maintain the second production line in the unionized Pudget Sound facility. If a settlement is not reached, the next step in the process will be a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Seattle on June 14.
The NLRB’s finding set off a fury of angry statements from anti-union South Carolina Republicans. Keeping South Carolina union-free has always been a priority for the elected officials representing the state. Earlier this year, In These Times covered how the Governor of South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) announced that a unionbuster, Catherine Templeton, would head South Carolina's labor agency. Haley said Templeton was hired to specifically to fight union organizing at a large Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C.
Haley was quoted as saying at the time: "She knows what it takes to take it on and she understands it's going to be a partnership level that we cannot lose. We're going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it. She's the right person to help me do it." The hiring of a public official to bust private sector unions led IAM to file a lawsuit against the governor.
Politicians like Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) were quick to accuse the NLRB of engaging in politics. “This is nothing more than a political favor for the unions who are supporting President Obama's re-election campaign. Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of hundreds of jobs in South Carolina and thousands of jobs nationwide," DeMint said in a press release. “There is no doubt that if the National Labor Relations Board's claim against Boeing moves forward, it will have a chilling effect on job growth in my state and in right-to-work states across the country. Using the federal government as political weapon to protect union bosses at the expense of American jobs cannot be tolerated.”
However, the NLRB says the move, while uncommon, is necessary to protect the right to strike and thus collectively bargain. Moving workers’ jobs away when they exercise the right to strike gives companies an unfair advantage in collective bargaining.
“A worker's right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act,” Solomon said. “We also recognize the rights of employers to make business decisions based on their economic interests, but they must do so within the law. I have worked with the parties to encourage settlement in the hope of avoiding costly litigation, and my door remains open to that possibility.”
April 22nd, 2014
FRANCIS RICHARD MOORE, 92, of FLINT/DAVISON, MI Passed away on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Escondido, CAHe was Frank to all who knew and loved him, and there were many. ...
January 28th, 2014
In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is going to call for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Then in their response ...
January 21st, 2014
My New Year's Day op-ed in the New York Times seems to have kickstarted a discussion about how to make Obamacare better. I hope you ...
December 18th, 2013
This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been ...
December 14th, 2013
[View the story "Michael Moore Tweets on Eve of Newtown Anniversay" on Storify]
November 9th, 2013
Click here for this week's full schedule for the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The day has arrived. For ...
September 10th, 2013
[View the story "John Kerry's Accidental Diplomacy" on Storify]
September 11th, 2010
OpenMike 9/11/10 Michael Moore's daily blog I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on ...
December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that ...
May 12th, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in ...
November 22nd, 2011
This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and ...
September 22nd, 2011
I encourage everyone I know to never travel to Georgia, never buy anything made in Georgia, to never do business in Georgia. I will ask ...
December 16th, 2010
Dear Swedish Government: Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your ...
November 2nd, 2010
This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That -- and where to go from ...