Friday, June 10, 2011

Boeing! Boeing! Boeing! Here Comes Issa

Barack Obama and his comrades at the big unions are happily encouraging their friends at the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) to ignore Congress and the Constitution and make business decisions for private companies by interfering directly in their operations under bureaucratic cover.

But as proof that Californians aren't all bad, Republican Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government, has scheduled hearings on the Democrat-controlled NLRB over its interference with the operations of Boeing Aircraft. Seems the NLRB, currently being led around by the nose by Obama's recess-appointed leftist/unionist Craig Becker wants Boeing to cease its "unfair labor practice" in which it dared to open a non-union plant in South Carolina.

You probably all know the basics. Boeing decided to open a new plant in South Carolina where the business climate was vastly better than in the heavily over-governed State of Washington. Boeing is the giant of the American aircraft industry, and has done extremely well in its home production base in Washington (home corporate offices are located in Chicago). The company was getting a new contract for the production of the 787 jumbo jet. There was no more room for producing it at the Puget Sound facilities, so Boeing looked around and found the ideal spot in South Carolina. No jobs will be lost in Washington. This was an expansion plant, not a replacement plant.

But Democrats on the NLRB are bought and paid for by the unions. When they're bought, they stay bought. The appointment of Craig Becker gave the Democrats a majority on the NLRB. So the Board sued Boeing based on a union complaint for unfair labor practices because South Carolina is a right to work state. Joyful Boeing employees there didn't want a union to screw things up. No union jobs in Washington are eliminated by the hiring in South Carolina. Nevertheless, by some strange twist of leftist logic, the NLRB determined that Boeing was union-busting in Washington by hiring non-union labor in South Carolina.

And now the Obama bureaucratic refusals to appear before committees of Congress continue. The Oversight Committee prepared a list of potential witnesses, including NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon. Solomon was invited courteously to appear before the committee hearings on Boeing. He semi-politely refused. Some day Republicans are going to learn that courtesy and decorum are seen as weaknesses by leftists. Solomon cannot be required to reveal attorney-client confidences, but a Board does not have the same level of immunity and executive privilege that a cabinet-level position does. Solomon can rightly be asked how the Board determined that Boeing was committing unfair labor practices without asking about private conversations leading to the decisions. More significantly, it can ask directly how the Board justifies having done so. Who better to answer that question than the Board's own general counsel?

An administrative law judge will hear the matter in Seattle on June 14. The Oversight Committee hearings are set for about two weeks later, and will now probably be delayed in order to subpoena Solomon for his testimony. But if the judge finds against Boeing, the matter will quickly be appealed to the D.C. Board (where the decision will of course be upheld), and then to an appellate court. Somewhere in between, we will be treated to Issa grilling Solomon (or even better, Becker).

The complaint against Boeing filed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is based entirely on the allegation that Boeing opened the South Carolina plant in retaliation for a union strike at the Washington facilities in 2008. The bulk of the work on the 787 will continue to be done in Washington, and the first one is scheduled for delivery later this year. But Boeing already has over 800 orders for the planes, and that could neither then nor now be accomplished solely in Washington. Boeing looked for a place to build the additional output efficiently and optimally, and found it in South Carolina.

Issa's letter to Solomon said: "This hearing will focus on how your actions against Boeing could impact the thousands of Boeing employees at a non-union work site in South Carolina. You assert that you do not seek to close Boeing's operations in South Carolina, yet the relief requested would have that exact effect." Boeing filed papers which demonstrated that the company had not removed or transferred any work from its Puget Sound site. It has refuted the claim that any union members have lost a job because of its decision.

The union and the NLRB have basically suggested that the 787 contract was "meant for the Washington facility" and all production on the 787 in South Carolina should cease. The South Carolina plant was built almost exclusively to handle the overload of 787 orders. It's tooled for it and Boeing hired with that goal exclusively in mind. The investment was huge. In fact, it was the largest industrial investment in that state's history. 1,000 jobs were created (no Obama mumbo-jumbo about jobs "created or saved") and many more are in the offing as production accelerates. If 787 production stops in order to satisfy the greed of union labor, the plant will effectively die.

This is in fact a double power play. South Carolina law allows for unionization, but also allows employees to refuse to join a union. Becker and the leftist members of the NLRB want to reverse the trend of ever-shrinking industrial unions. Congress refused to go along with card-check and elimination of secret ballots in union elections. Becker and his bureaucrats are determined to do end-runs around Congress using regulations to create union rights that Congress has refused to grant. If the Board could succeed in requiring that all 787 work be done in Washington or in a union shop, it might accomplish coercing South Carolina employees into joining a union they have already rejected.

Issa and his fellow GOP members will launch a major attempt to expose this bureaucratic travesty. At a time when the economy is the issue and the focus is jobs, jobs, jobs, the Obama administration, his cabinet and his czars are doing everything they can to stifle job growth. This is only one painful example of how they intend to go about it.


StanH said...

I guess union members, when they were children never learned, “don’t cut you nose off to spite your face.” This is a recurring theme that has taken place over the decades, countless factories throughout America have simply shutdown, or moved overseas. As we move to repair this nation, we need to make it our business as Americans, too relentlessly attack unions, and have them shutdown, or move overseas, there usefulness to the working man has completely expired. Or we’ll sadly will test another old saying, “we all can’t be poets.” A country that can’t manufacture anything, is dependent on everyone.

Tennessee Jed said...

great article, Hawk and I applaud Issa's efforts. While we now have a better counterpoint to the left media-wise it will still be an uphill battle since leftist water carriers will work hard to spin it their way.

Along this same line, I read an interesting article by Henry Olsen in the July 20th National Review that cautions the Republicans not to lose the blue collar white demographic. This group is against liberalism, but answers to a different set of priorities than true conservatives. They fear loss of things like social security and medicare. Our side needs to cater to them by making it clear we are not getting rid of these programs, but rather are making the modification necessary so that it can continue to be there for them in the future. In other words we can't just pound the spending message, we need to show why it is caring to be realistic.

Unknown said...

Stan: There's apparently a mentality among the union bosses that says "If I can't have it all, I don't want any of it--and I don't want anyone else to have it either." It's not as if the union jobs in Washington were in danger. In fact, quite the opposite was true, since Boeing planned expansion there as well. Industrial unions have been losing grounds for decades wherever employees have a free choice. This is an example of why. Only government bureaucracies and leftist politicians are keeping them afloat.

The unions killed the steel industry, and have put the automobile industry on life support. I guess they figure it's time to kill the airplane manufacturing industry next.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm really becoming an Issa fan. He gets the role of Congress, which is oversight and information gathering before legislating. Too many of the others just legislate in a vacuum.

The Boeing thing is interesting because even a lot of Democrats agree that this is the most anti-business, aggressively pro-militant unionization effort in the NLRB's history. So I don't expect Obama to get away with this in the end -- not to mention that Boeing is a very powerful lobbyist, having tentacles in almost every Congressional district in the US.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: We have to develop a two-pronged attack. First, show the union thugs beating up opponents of Obama socialism and mobbing the people's representatives. Second, find a way to make it clear that the Republican plan is the only way to save Medicare and Social Security for those who need it and count on it, while showing a way to make medical care and retirement better and safer for future retirees and seniors.

The upcoming election will be a referendum on the entire economy, but the Democrats will concentrate on Mediscare because it's easy to demagogue. Republicans must find a simple and clear way to explain that what the Democrats are saying is an outright lie and that if people want future medical and retirement security, the whole economic bankrupt house of cards must be fixed or there will be neither for future generations.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I think you're absolutely right. This is a golden opportunity for Republicans to highlight a vicious and calculated attack on a hugely successful business employing thousands of workers by a Democrat-controlled bureaucracy doing the dirty work of an administration that couldn't get its way using democratic means. It also demonstrates the pernicious and incestuous relationship between unions and the Democratic Party that destroys jobs rather than creating them.

T-Rav said...

But, but, I thought unions were all about protecting workers' rights and stuff. Surely they would be against forcing people to join unions against their will...right?

Unknown said...

T-Rav: If only.

I watched several northern California unions negotiate for higher pay for their senior employees who were union loyalists. New employees came in at ever-lower rates as the most senior employees consistently got higher and higher rates for their loyalty to the union. They also made "deals" under the table with companies for special treatment for their union reps and leaders. There was only so much money to go around, so they took it for themselves and their activists instead of for the vast majority of their workers. Waiting periods for benefits to vest got longer and longer for the new employees in order to pad the benefits for the old loyalists.

rlaWTX said...

I read that Issa is also going after Project Gunrunner.

where is he from in CA?

Joel Farnham said...


I hope Boeing doesn't go under because of this stupidity.

This is the problem with Czars. They act without impunity. There is no authority to stop Czars even though Czars have no authority to act.

I propose that all Czar positions be removed from office and their subordinates removed as well. We might not save any money on the government side because of unemployment, but we will stop them from destructive behavior.

Notawonk said...

It's infuriating that the unions have so much power, but worse that folks allow them to carry on in such a manner. why do we even have unions anymore? is there still a need?

Unknown said...

rlaWTX: He is in the slightly modified 49th District (much like its predecessor, the 48th District). It's parts of Riverside County and parts of San Diego County. Riverside tends to be modestly Republican, the outlying areas of San Diego County that are in his district tend to be much more heavily Republican and conservative (unlike the City of San Diego itself).

Unknown said...

Joel: I'm cautiously optimistic. Boeing is REALLY big and powerful, and has legal and financial resources that damn near match the government's. It also appears that the executive management are determined not to lose this battle. I think the lefties may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew.

Unknown said...

Patti: Unions exercise political and financial power far out of line with their shrinking membership numbers. I can still see some use for unions in the more dangerous industries such as mining. But "service" unions are nothing more than socialist cancers on the body of society. It's important to remember that in right-to-work states, employees can join a union if they want to, they just can't be forced to. As a result, right-to-work states have union populations that are about one-third of those in closed shop states. And where unions are optional, they tend to be far less socialistic and dictatorial, and much more efficient. It's the big, powerful unions that sell their members out, make crippling demands on employers, and extort big dues from the members which are then spent on left wing causes that most employees don't support.

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