Politics

Alexander: Obama administration attacking right-to-work laws

Senate Republicans say the Obama administration is intent on undermining the right-to-work laws that are in force in 22 states, as evidenced by a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint against Boeing.

Right-to-work laws forbid workers from being required to join unions as a condition of their employment, and a Senate GOP bill aims to protect employers who wish to expand into right-to-work states.

“For the last two years the major battle over labor relations was over card check over the secret ballot, over card check,” Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander said. “Now I think it shifts to the right-to-work law and whether the administration can stop companies from locating in right-to-work states, which is obviously the goal of complaints like this.”

Alexander has co-sponsored the bill together with South Carolina Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, and 32 other co-sponsors.

The bill S 964 would protect the right of employers to discuss the costs associated with strikes and other consequences of having a unionized workforce without fear of reprisals. It would also prevent the NLRB from telling an employer where it has to employ workers.

The NLRB complaint against Boeing alleges its decision to move assembly work on its 787 Dreamliner to a $1 billion plant, slated to open next month, in North Charleston, S.C., violates the rights of unionized workers at its plants in Washington state.

The federal labor board claims that Boeing’s decision to move work that was originally intended to been done in Washington to its new South Carolina location was retaliatory against the union’s legal right to strike.

According to the complaint, Boeing management told several Seattle press outlets in late 2009 and early 2010 that they planned to relocate work to South Carolina to avoid the kinds of strikes that had previously hampered work at the Washington location.

An NLRB spokeswoman told The Daily Caller under the condition of anonymity that these press comments served as the basis of the complaint and triggered the NRLB’s investigation. The complaint, she said, would not have been brought had management never referenced the union’s right to strike in press interviews.

“They are not moving jobs; they are expanding their operations,” Alexander said. “They are expanding a new production line in South Carolina, which they started nearly two years ago and on which they have spent about a billion dollars.”

He disputes the NRLB’s contention that Boeing decided to expand into South Carolina to dodge the union’s right to strike. “In general counsel’s testimony, they testified there were many other decisions and factors that went into this decision,” Alexander said. “One is the that the cost of doing business generally in South Carolina. One is the location on the East Coast, so there are a variety of reasons that they went to South Carolina.”

Alexander argues the complaint implies that a company that operates in a state that has compulsory unionism cannot expand into a right-to-work state like South Carolina and that complaint could discourage job growth in states with forced unionism.