Where the Boeing Controversy Was Born

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page connects the dots to discover that the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing and companies moving to Right to Work states is not the actions of a rouge General Counsel but the suggestion of the Chairman of the Committee Wilma Liebman.

The Obama-era National Labor Relations Board has tilted so heavily toward union interests that companies might be forgiven for thinking the process is rigged against them. A recent missive from one of the agency’s top lawyers shows why.

In a May 10 memo to regional staffers, Associate General Counsel Richard Siegel discusses a March case in which the NLRB sided with telecommunications company Embarq Corp. in a dispute over its decision to close a Las Vegas call center and open a bigger facility in Florida. The company refused to explain to its union the rationale for the move. In America, business decisions are made by owners or executives and are rarely subject to compulsory bargaining, while unions confine their concerns to working conditions, pay and benefits.

NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman, a long-time union lawyer, doesn’t like that balance. “The Board’s task would be easier, and more importantly, the [National Labor Relations] Act’s policy of promoting collective bargaining might well be better served, if employers were required to provide unions with requested information about relocation decisions whenever there was a reasonable likelihood that labor-cost concessions might affect the decision,” she wrote in her concurrence to the Embarq case.

Translation: Ms. Liebman wants to force far more companies to consult unions when they want to relocate, because unions might theoretically be able to offer concessions to avert a move if they had more information. Never mind that such a rule change would be an unprecedented intrusion into boardrooms, or that unions might use collective bargaining to request reams of data, such as payrolls and tax returns, to increase their negotiating leverage. In a “future case,” Ms. Liebman added, “I would be open to modifying” the rule. Wink, nudge.

And voila, a few months later, we get Mr. Siegel’s letter: “The General Counsel wishes to examine the concerns raised by Chairman Liebman in Embarq, and determine whether to propose a new standard in cases involving these kinds of information requests.” So one of the NLRB’s top lawyers is ordering the troops to scrounge up a case to bring to the accommodating Ms. Liebman and her two fellow Democrats who form a 3-2 majority on the NLRB.

This is getting to be a bad habit. In April, acting general counsel Lafe Solomon challenged Boeing’s right to build a new factory in South Carolina, on grounds that such a move would hurt the company’s existing union in Washington state. The case is a frontal assault on “right-to-work” states, which let individual workers choose whether to join a union.

As more private workers shun union membership, Big Labor wants government to rig the rules on its behalf. The current NLRB, the most politicized in memory, is obliging with an unprecedented attack on the free movement of business and capital in America. If it succeeds, the result will be a flight of jobs overseas, not more at home. The NLRB is controlled by President Obama’s appointees, and the White House silence on their actions amounts to an endorsement.