Aircraft manufacturing heavyweight Boeing Co. has been caught in a firestorm of controversy, pulled between unions and politicians, for a decision to open a non-union plant in Charleston, SC, a move that landed the company in hot water with the National Labor Relations Board and now has ensnared President Obama's nominee to head the Commerce Department.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, announced Monday that he will oppose the nomination of John Bryson, also a member of Boeing's board of directors since 1995, until the president voices support for the aircraft manufacturer.
The senator said he wants Obama to "tell the country we think Boeing's a good, ethical company, and they've done nothing wrong," according to the senator's spokesman, Kevin Bishop. Graham made the comments to a Mauldin Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Boeing is the subject of a hearing Tuesday in Seattle, Wash., for its move to South Carolina, a "right-to-work" state, after it had already begun work on the 787 Dreamliner commercial airplane in Everett, Wash., site of all wide-body plane work for the company since its inception. The move, announced in 2008, angered the Machinists Union in Everett, who had been on strike for two months, and the union filed suit.
The National Labor Relations Board looked into the complaint and later accused Boeing of violating workers' rights.
It's a legal dispute that could last years and make it all the way to the Supreme Court, but Graham feels the president could step in and assist the company now.
Graham, who has legislation to allow states to opt for "right to work" status, has frequently pushed Obama to get involved, citing his Administration's connections to Boeing as reason enough. Current White House chief of staff William Daley was on Boeing's board of directors with Bryson when the decision on the South Carolina plant was made; and Obama's export council chief, Jim McNerney, is Boeing's president and CEO.
The Bryson nomination enjoys little support in the GOP, the Graham blockade aside. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has led the charge against the man the senator has called "an environmental extremist." Bryson co-founded the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
As well, 44 GOP senators recently penned a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announcing opposition to the nomination until President Obama sends up both the Panama and Colombia free trade agreements, and promises to sign the accompanying implementation language. Likewise, that dispute is rooted in a disagreement over workers' rights.