Lafe Solomon, the man President Obama has selected to be the top lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), outraged millions of Americans across all regions of the country in April by asserting his agency has the prerogative, in many instances, to tell businesses where they may or may not expand.
For decades, the NLRB has called the shots with regard to implementation of the National Labor Relations Act, the nation’s principal federal labor law. The NLRA covers over 90% of private-sector businesses and front-line employees. The NLRB is thus, no doubt, powerful.
Nevertheless, the claim of power by NLRB Acting General Counsel Solomon in his April 20 complaint filed to block Boeing from initiating a new aircraft production line in Right to Work South Carolina is remarkable.
As economist Arthur Laffer and senior Wall Street Journal editorial page economics writer Stephen Moore noted in a pungent op-ed appearing in the Journal May 13, this is “the first time a federal agency has intervened to tell an American company where it can and cannot operate a [new] plant within the U.S.”
Well-informed apologists for compulsory unionism like New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse and former Clinton-appointed NLRB Chairman William Gould don’t dispute that the Boeing complaint is, to quote Mr. Greenhouse, “highly unusual.”
Acting General Counsel: Sensible Business Decision Equals ‘Anti-Union Animus’
The controversial complaint by Mr. Solomon, whose nomination has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, stems from Boeing’s 2009 business decision to address at last its chronic problem of strikes instigated by top bosses of the International Association of Machinists (IAM/AFL-CIO) union.
Since 1975, IAM union chiefs have ordered employees at Boeing’s Washington State and Oregon facilities out on strike five times. The most recent strike, in 2008, lasted 58 days and cost the company $1.8 billion.
In a highly competitive, globalized industry like aircraft production, such costly labor stoppages put Boeing jobs at risk. The potential harm to workers is far greater than any economic gain they could reap from a strike.
Nearly two years ago, having failed in their latest attempt to secure a no-strike deal with the union, Boeing finally decided to build a new, $2 billion 787 Dreamliner plant in North Charleston, S.C.
Boeing executives knew at the time they made the call that a majority of their current South Carolina employees had opted against union monopoly bargaining. The new plant’s availability for production during a strike would mitigate the company’s revenue losses.
If Boeing is allowed to proceed with this plan in peace, its employees, union and nonunion alike, will surely benefit from an investment that is creating, directly and indirectly, thousands of jobs at a time America needs them.
Nothing doing, says Mr. Solomon. His complaint insists that Boeing’s eminently sensible move to expand production in a Right to Work state so as to cut the cost to customers, employees and shareholders of disruptive IAM strikes was driven by “anti-union animus” and illegal.
Complaint Lays the Foundation Of a ‘Union Berlin Wall’
As Mr. Gould explained to a reporter for Slate magazine, Mr. Solomon is, deliberately or not, rewriting the NLRA to intensify greatly its pro-forced unionism bias:
“The general counsel is trying to equate an employer’s concern with strikes that disrupt production and make it difficult to make deadlines — he’s trying to equate that with hostility toward trade unionism. I don’t think that makes sense.”
And the potential impact of the NLRB move against Boeing is very far-reaching. As the title of the Laffer-Moore op-ed suggests, Mr. Solomon is laying the foundation of a “union Berlin Wall.”
“If the acting general counsel’s stance prevails, then any business owner who acts on the desire to extricate himself or herself from profit- and wage-consuming Big Labor class warfare may be guilty of committing an ‘unfair labor practice,'” said National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.
“Any state or locality with a comparative advantage in labor relations in any industry is a direct target for Lafe Solomon. But, in practice, the 22 states with Right to Work laws barring forced union dues and fees will be the main targets, because that’s where the job growth is.”
Right to Work Leaders Pursuing Both Legislative And Legal Strategies
This month, an NLRB administrative law judge is scheduled to consider Mr. Solomon’s request that Boeing’s South Carolina production of 787 Dreamliners be blocked before it begins, unless the company first meets his extraordinarily costly and economically absurd demands.
To stop the acting general counsel in his tracks, Mr. Mix and other Right to Work leaders have adopted a multi-pronged strategy.
On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., National Right to Work attorneys helped craft legislation, known as the Job Protection Act (S.964/H.R.1976), which would explicitly prohibit NLRB bureaucrats from ordering an employer to relocate jobs from one site to another.
Introduced just last month, the Job Protection Act already has 36 Senate sponsors.
This legislation would also free employers and employees to communicate freely and honestly with one another regarding the costs associated with unionization without fear that their discussion will lead to the company’s being charged with “anti-union discrimination.”
Over the next few months, the Committee plans to implement a major lobbying effort to secure House and Senate passage of the Job Protection Act.
Meanwhile, Right to Work attorneys are also seeking to intervene in the NLRB case against Boeing on behalf of roughly 1000 employees at the company’s new Dreamliner plant in North Charleston, which is scheduled to begin production this summer.
Finally, the Committee and its 2.6 million members will continue lobbying efforts, launched long before Mr. Solomon’s action against Boeing, to cut off all taxpayer funding for the NLRB.
“The Boeing case is just one more high-profile example of why federal labor-law cases should be processed through the court system, and not be directed first to a politically appointed ideologue like Lafe Solomon. The rogue NLRB should be defunded before it does any more damage,” Mr. Mix concluded.