Published June 17, 2011
Republicans are calling on the National Labor Relations Board to dismiss its complaint against Boeing and get out of the way of job creation, though Democrats argue Boeing is violating the law by retaliating against union employees.
The NLRB has charged that Boeing built an assembly line for its new 787 aircraft in South Carolina to retaliate against its unionized workers in Washington state for past strikes and to avoid future labor unrest. Boeing has disputed the complaint, saying no union workers lost jobs. In South Carolina, workers don't have to join a union to work at a job site, making it a so-called right-to-work state.
At a congressional hearing Friday in South Carolina, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said that the NLRB is jeopardizing thousands of jobs in the state with its complaint -- a state grappling with 9.8 percent unemployment. The $750 million plant is the largest single industrial investment in South Carolina history.
"Why would the administration stand in the way of reindustrialization of the American workforce and strengthening one of the major industries where we still have a competitive global advantage?" Issa said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a statement for the hearing, saying, "If the NLRB is allowed to overrule Boeing's business decision, there are no winners. ... The repercussions of this case will ensure that businesses will simply decide to move operations overseas. South Carolina has seen what happens when businesses find better opportunities overseas -- the jobs leave and they don't come back."
On Thursday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and 15 other GOP governors wrote to NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon on Thursday saying the probe hamstrings governors who are trying to create jobs.
The letter was released Friday as the hearing began meeting in North Charleston. It was expected to last most of the day.
But Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the case wasn't about creating jobs in South Carolina or Everett Washington, but rather about a company that thinks it is above the law.
"At issue in the Boeing case is whether Boeing illegally retaliated against American workers for engaging in activity that Congress has chosen to protect since 1935 and FDR – the right to protest," she said.
"I support creating great jobs and reducing unemployment across the United States. But I also believe that Boeing is not above the law. And as members of Congress we should not set aside the law to give preferred treatment to any one company."
Solomon told the committee that a thorough investigation led him to believe that the National Labor Relations Act had been violated.
"The issuance of the complaint was not intended to harm the workers of South Carolina, but rather to protect the rights of workers regardless of where they are employed, to engage in activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act without fearing discrimination," he said.
"Boeing has every right to manufacture planes in South Carolina or anywhere else, for that matter, as long as those decisions are based on legitimate business considerations."
Solomon attempted to avoid Friday's field hearing by offering testimony of "another NLRB official who has not direct involvement in the pending Boeing case," according to congressional Democrats. Issa rejected the offer and insisted Solomon testify, they said.
Fox Business' Rich Edson contributed to this report.