Ever since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it was filing a suit against Boeing — alleging that the company moved a planned production line from Washington state to South Carolina in retaliation against workers for striking — conservatives have been up in arms, with Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) going so far as to call the NLRB “un-American.” 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been no stranger to this line of criticism, saying that the NLRB’s action is a “power grab.”
Today, Mitt Romney brought his anti-NLRB road show to South Carolina, using a speech there to ceaselessly attack the board and explain that, if he’s elected president, “with regards to the NLRB, I will put into the NLRB people who are experienced and unbiased and who respect the rule of law”:
[The NLRB's case against Boeing is] an assault on business, it’s an assault on jobs, it’s an assault on states that have right-to-work policies, yet is simply the product of political favoritism and payback. It has no place in the American economy. Frankly, it should not be part of our political system. It’s unseemly…I will stop that assault on business and workers that’s been pursued by our President. With regards to the NLRB, I will put into the NLRB people who are experienced and unbiased and who respect the rule of law.
The irony here is that Romney is pledging to appoint NLRB members “who respect the rule of law” while blasting the agency for…respecting the law. After all, according to the National Labor Relations Act, which the NLRB enforces, it is illegal to retaliate against workers for striking by moving production.
As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “there is ample precedent for the argument that threatening to move facilities because of strikes is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. And certainly the NLRB might reasonably have taken a Boeing executive at his word when he told the Seattle Times (on video!) that this was precisely what motivated the relocation.” The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein wrote that, “given the public statements of Boeing officials, there is nothing radical about the NLRB’s decision.”
Already, American workers enjoy the weakest labor protections in the developed world, thus are more vulnerable “to being fired unfairly, to not getting severance pay, to getting the least notice on mass layoffs or being fired, [or] to being stuck on a mouse wheel of temporary positions.” Romney’s theory of labor law would remove one more of these protections, replacing an independent agency tasked with enforcing labor laws with a board that seeks to do business’ bidding.