Thursday, 15 September 2011

House Passes Bill Against NLRB Attack on Boeing

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The dispute between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board was addressed today by a vote in the House of Representatives. The measure in question is one that would minimize the NLRB’s enforcement power. It passed by a vote of 239-176. Six Democrats crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill. 

The bill, called “The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” prohibits the labor board from “ordering any employer to close, relocate or transfer employment under any circumstances.”

The battle between Boeing and the NLRB erupted when the NLRB attempted to block Boeing’s plan to open a production facility in South Carolina, a right to work state. The disagreement between the NLRB and Boeing has prompted Congress to introduce the measure.

Fox News writes:

The NLRB claims Boeing has acted unfairly in opening the new production line in South Carolina instead of in Washington State, where the company’s main operations are located, because Boeing’s South Carolina plant is non-union and South Carolina is a “right to work” state where workers can’t be forced to join unions if a majority of their co-workers opt to do so. Labor leaders say Boeing should have expanded its operation in the more union-friendly Washington and didn’t as part of bid to punish union workers.

Proponents of the bill argue that not a single job has been lost as a result of Boeing’s decision to open a plant in South Carolina, and therefore contend that there should be no opposition to the measure.

“This is a frivolous complaint beyond imagination,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said of the NLRB’s grievance. “This is using the law for political purposes, and I really do resent the idea that we are not going to fight back. Senator Reid, help us out here.”

However, Senator Reid has given no indication that the United States Senate would take up a companion measure.

While Republicans believe that Boeing will ultimately win the long battle, it will cost them millions of dollars. They fear that as a result of the difficulties and costs of the legal battle, other companies may be hesitant to face such a struggle, and instead, open up facilities overseas.

“Businesses are smarter than government,” said South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint. “The next time Boeing has a move, they won’t move to South Carolina or a right-to-work state. They’ll move to China or somewhere else…. That’s the signal this administration is sending.”

However, the unions fighting Boeing — the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers — believe Congress’ role in the battle is unfair. In a letter addressed to the House, the unions wrote, “This bill provides a Congressional pardon in an ongoing law enforcement matter.”

House Democrats have indicated agreement with such assertions, contending that the bill will permit American jobs to be outsourced overseas.

“It’s the outsourcers’ bill of rights,” said New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews. “It’s also an interference with ongoing piece of litigation, which is a bad idea.”

President Obama weighed in on the issue at the end of June during a White House news conference, when he was asked to address the Boeing issue: “Companies need to have the freedom to relocate. They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system. If they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.”

Republicans contend that the bill would actually prevent outsourcing because it would make it easier for businesses to operate in the United States without fear of the NLRB. Republicans have been outspoken about their criticism of the NLRB, calling it an unelected bureaucracy that makes job creation more difficult, something that this economy does not need at the moment.

“What was just about South Carolina is now about the nation as a whole, we are dumbfounded, we are disappointed and we’re going to fight back in South Carolina,” said Graham.

During the hour long debate prior to the vote, Representatives on both ends of the spectrum gave impassioned pleas both for and against the bill.

“The federal government’s overregulation of private sector is decreasing job creation in this country,” said Republican Rep. Scott Desjarlais. “This administration has used its labor board to make it harder to do business in America.”

According to Desjarlais, “Boeing invested $1 billion to build a plant in South Carolina which will create new high paying jobs in South Carolina. The administration is attempting to destroy those South Carolina jobs.”

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rush Holt argued, however, “This bill will be devastating to workers across the country and kick off a new race to the bottom….It is not good legislative policy to legislate on individual cases.”

But Rep. Todd Rokita disagreed. “This straightforward legislation prohibits the NLRB from dictating where private businesses can and cannot locate businesses in America. It’s almost a bizarre situation that we’re in. An American company wants to provide American jobs in America and we have an administration agency that is trying to prevent that….Businesses that want to grow jobs in America ought to be able to do so. We must continue to empower businesses to create jobs. It produces a strong economy and keeps a strong business class.”

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich asserts that the measure would ensure that jobs would be moved overseas. “The National Labor Relations Act is a New Deal initiative to protect workers’ rights…They ensure basic rights in a democratic society. Take away these rights and you create a new class of slave labor in America. Stand up for workers rights.”

To that, Indiana Rep. Larry Bucschon declared, “This bill does not permit jobs to go overseas. The NLRB’s complaint is an attack on American job creators. This bill will create an environment necessary for employers to develop businesses to offer the best opportunity to grow and create jobs and not have it left up to a board of unelected bureaucrats.”

Just before the final vote on the bill, House Democrats proposed an Amendment to the bill that would allow NLRB to maintain its authority over companies that seek to outsource jobs overseas, but that proposal failed by a vote of 189-235.

In addition to this bill, the House has votes scheduled to combat what House Republicans have dubbed the "10 most harmful job-destroying regulations."

House Speak John Boehner explains that it is the goal of House Republicans to kill the toxic environment in which businesses are expected to operate. "Job creators in America are basically on strike...What we need is to liberate our economy from the shackles of Washington."


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