Late last month, the National Labor Relations Board announced that it was launching a complaint against the airline manufacturer Boeing, alleging that the company decided to move a planned production line from Washington state to South Carolina as retribution against workers in Washington who had engaged in a strike. Republicans have gone into a fit of rage over seeing an administration that is actually interested in enforcing labor law, with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) calling NLRB officials “thugs” from a “third-world country.”
Last night, the first Republican presidential primary debate took place in Greenville, South Carolina, where former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-SC) played to the local crowd by calling the NLRB’s decision “preposterous” and “outrageous”:
You have this administration, through the National Labor Relations Board, telling a private company that they can not relocate to South Carolina and provide jobs in this state, and they’re good-paying jobs, and they’re needed jobs. It’s a preposterous decision and position of this administration…I just want to make it clear: the idea that the federal government can tell a private business where they can be and not be in the United States of America is a whole new line that this administration has crossed and its outrageous.
Pawlenty conveniently leaves out that the basis for the case is the very public statements from Boeing officials, who said that their justification for moving was workers in Washington having the audacity to strike. One said that “the overriding factor [in moving to South Carolina] 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.” Another said that the company decided to move its production line due to “strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound.”
Under labor law, it is simply illegal to move production as retribution against workers striking. And Boeing must know that these statements are incriminating, as it is now claiming that it was misquoted by the NLRB. If it felt the legal argument would swing its way, trying to hide from its statements wouldn’t be necessary. In fact, one lawyer quoted by the Seattle Times said, “If my sympathies are anywhere, they are with management. But I am also a realist. If I’m their labor lawyer, I’m cringing when they are saying that.”