Today, the House approved a bill that, if it were ever signed into law, would stop the National Labor Relations Board from enforcing the portion of the National Labor Relations Act that prevents corporations from retaliating against workers by moving production to another location. The catalyst for the bill was the NLRB’s case against mega-manufacturer Boeing, which moved a production line from Washington state to South Carolina because, by the company’s own admission, it didn’t want to deal with workers in Washington striking.
Before the bill passed, one of the NLRB’s most vociferous critics, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) took to the Senate floor to declare that enforcing labor law and protecting workers from corporate retaliation is the equivalent of the “economic death penalty”:
Boeing is the most glaring example of their overreach but it is not the only one. At a time when union membership is at an historic low, the NLRB seeks to give big labor a historically high level of influence with this administration. Whether it’s quickie elections or mandating advocacy posters in the workplace, or this, the economic death penalty, the NLRB is out of control.
According to the National Labor Relations Act, which the NLRB enforces, it is illegal to retaliate against workers for striking by moving production, which seems to be what Boeing did. After all, one of the company’s executives clearly 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.”.
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.” The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein wrote that, “given the public statements of Boeing officials, there is nothing radical about the NLRB’s decision.”
American workers already enjoy the weakest labor protections in the developed world, and if the GOP gets its way, that dubious honor is going to become even more true.