Since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced last month that it is launching a complaint against airline-manufacturer Boeing for potential union-busting, Republicans have been in an uproar. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) likened the NLRB to “thugs” from “a third-world country.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), meanwhile, said that the case is evidence the Obama administration has an “enemies list.”
Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) — whose state would have been the beneficiary of Boeing’s union-busting — said this week that “I’d like to see every [potential GOP 2012 presidential] candidate step up [and say] what they would do about it.” 2012 Republican hopeful Tim Pawlenty, when he was participating in a debate in South Carolina, did just that, calling the board’s decision “preposterous” and “outrageous.”
Yesterday was 2012 contender Mitt Romney’s turn, as he took a brief aside in his highly-anticipated health care speech to call the NLRB’s decision a “power grab” proving that the Obama administration “fundamentally distrusts free enterprise”:
The states, in the words of Justice Brandeis, would be the laboratories of democracy. They would try things. They would learn from one another. They would also compete with one another. So the same dynamic that would propel our economy — competition and freedom — would propel learning between the states…I’m convinced, however, that the Obama administration fundamentally doesn’t believe in that American experiment. They fundamentally distrust free enterprise and fundamentally distrust the idea that states are where the power of government resides. The most recent decision was the one made by the NLRB, to decide that Boeing can’t locate a factory in South Carolina. It was a power grab from states, with the federal government saying we know better than states.
To, once again, review what happened, Boeing, in 2007, announced a production line in Washington state, but in 2009 decided to move that line to South Carolina. Boeing officials very publicly explained that the decision was made because workers in Washington had engaged in a strike. According to labor law, shifting production as retribution against workers who exercise their rights is illegal.
As the Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein wrote, “given the public statements of Boeing officials, there is nothing radical about the NLRB’s decision.” A lawyer who described himself as sympathetic to management told the Seattle Times, “If I’m [Boeing's] labor lawyer, I’m cringing when they are saying that.” But the GOP is treating this as some unprecedented assault on freedom, rather than an agency just enforcing the laws on the books and ensuring that workers don’t have their rights trampled by corporations.