Union takes unfair aim at Boeing

May 15, 2011


— This summer, the huge Boeing assembly plant here will begin producing 787 Dreamliners — up to three a month, priced at $185 million apiece. It will, unless the National Labor Relations Board, controlled by Democrats and encouraged by Barack Obama’s reverberating silence, gets its way.

Last month — 17 months after Boeing announced plans to build here, and with the $2 billion plant nearing completion — the NLRB, collaborating with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, charged that Boeing’s decision violated the rights of its unionized workers in Washington state, where some Dreamliners are assembled and still will be even after the plant here is operational. The NLRB has read a 76-year-old statute (the 1935 Wagner Act) perversely, disregarded almost half a century of NLRB and Supreme Court rulings, and patently misrepresented statements by Boeing officials.

South Carolina is one of 22 right-to-work states, where workers cannot be compelled to join a union. When in September 2009, Boeing’s South Carolina workers — fuselage sections of 787s already are built here — voted to end their representation by IAM, the union did not accuse Boeing of pre-vote misbehavior. Now, however, the NLRB seeks to establish the principle that moving businesses to such states from non-right-to-work states constitutes prima facie evidence of “unfair labor practices,” including intimidation and coercion of labor. This principle would be a powerful incentive for new companies to locate only in right-to-work states.

The NLRB complaint fictitiously says Boeing has decided to “remove” or “transfer” work from Washington. Actually, Boeing has so far added more than 2,000 workers in Washington, where planned production — seven 787s a month, full capacity for that facility — will not be reduced. Besides, how can locating a new plant here violate the rights of IAM members whose collective bargaining agreement with Boeing gives the company the right to locate new production facilities where it deems best?

The NLRB says Boeing has come here “because” IAM strikes have disrupted production and “to discourage” future strikes.

Since 1995, IAM has stopped Boeing’s production in three of five labor negotiations, including a 58-day walkout in 2008 that cost the company $1.8 billion and a diminished reputation with customers.

The NLRB uses meretricious editing of Boeing officials’ remarks to falsely suggest that anti-union animus motivated the company to locate some production in a right-to-work state. Anyway, it is settled law that companies can consider past strikes when making business decisions to diminish the risk of future disruptions.

The economy is mired in a sluggish recovery. But the destructive — and self-destructive — Obama administration is trying to debilitate the world’s largest aerospace corporation and the nation’s leading exporter, which has 155,000 U.S. employees and whose 738 million shares are held by individual and institutional investors, mutual funds and retirement accounts. Why? Organized labor, primarily and increasingly confined to government workers, cannot convince private-sector workers that it adds more value to their lives than it subtracts with dues and productivity-damaging work rules. Hence unions’ reliance on government coercion where persuasion has failed.

The NLRB’s complaint is not a conscientious administration of the law, it is intimidation of business leaders who contemplate locating operations in right-to-work states. Labor loathes section 14(b) of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which allows states to pass right-to-work laws that forbid compulsory unionization. But 11 Democratic senators represent 10 of the 22 — so far — right-to-work states: Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Bill Nelson (Florida), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Harry Reid (Nevada), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), and Jim Webb and Mark Warner (Virginia). Do they support the Obama administration’s attempt to cripple their states’ economic attractiveness?

The NLRB’s attack on Boeing illustrates the Obama administration’s penchant for lawlessness displayed when, disregarding bankruptcy law, it traduced the rights of Chrysler’s secured creditors. Now the NLRB is suing Arizona and South Dakota because they recently, and by large majorities, passed constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to secret ballots in unionization elections — ballots that complicate coercion by union organizers.

Just as uncompetitive companies try to become wards of the government (beneficiaries of subsidies, tariffs, import quotas), unions unable to compete for workers’ allegiance solicit government compulsion to fill their ranks. The NLRB’s reckless attempt to break a great corporation, and by extension all businesses, to government’s saddle — never mind the collateral damage to the economy — is emblematic of the Obama administration’s willingness to sacrifice the economy on the altar of politics.

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com


jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

I knew over a year ago that we were going to have problems with the National Labor Relations Board because Obama was stacking it with union lawyers.

This could not be anything other than a union payoff and a completely irresponsible decision by the Obama administration. It was only a matter of time that they finally found a fat target to go after and unfortunately, it is Boeing, one of our most important companies and one of our largest exporters no less.

George Will, one of our most renowned political columnist whores, draws different conclusions than I would have, but the deed by the NLRB sucks no less.

John McCain was the first dumb bell to go after Boeing.


At this point, Boeing must be wondering who to donate money to in the next election since they must feel like they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Manufacturers in this country should get the red carpet treatment if we want to compete in the global economy but instead they get the shaft.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

George is right. Unions are pure evil, and megacorporations are exemplars of benevolence just looking out for the little guy, giving them the unfettered "right to work." Boeing is pure as the driven snow, and wouldn't think of pitting one set of workers against another, or one state against another. (heavy sarcasm)

Scott Drummond 7 years ago

Three posts in this string and not a single cogent point made.

That caught my interest.

Some might even say it was piqued.

jafs 7 years ago

Unionizing is a way for workers to get more power at the bargaining table.

Unions probably give money primarily to Democrats because they perceive that Democratic politicians are more friendly to labor than to corporate interests (which may be misguided, at this point).

How many products have businesses created without the labor of their employees?

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

How much new industry and how many new jobs have republicans created since 1980?

How many economies have the republicans destroyed since 1980 taking millions upon millions of jobs away from USA workers both blues and white collars?

  1. The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist(Cost taxpayers $1.4 trillion) http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm Millions of jobs went bye bye during the epidemic period of hostile takeovers under Reagan/Bush.

  2. Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers under Bush/Cheney http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html (an estimated 11 million jobs went bye bye)

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

How many different forums have you posted this same drivel on, merrill? Do you even know how many times you posted it on this award-winning website?

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

In Eisenhower’s telephone broadcast to the United States he acknowledged the impact union members had made to better the nation and one of these impacts was "the development of the American philosophy of labour."

Eisenhower states three principles which he feels apply to the philosophy of labour. The first principles states that: "the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice."

Eisenhower was stating that every individual deserves a job with decent compensation, practical hours, and good working conditions that leave them feeling fulfilled. His second principle speaks of the economic interest of the employer and employee being a mutual prosperity.

The employers and employees must work together in order for there to be the greatest amount of wealth for all.

Workers have a right to strike when they feel their boundaries are being crossed and the best way for the employer to fix the employees unhappiness is to come to a mutual agreement.

His last principle which he preached stated: "labour relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government’s unwarranted interference.

Eisenhower was saying that when both parties cooperate and act in mature fashion, it will be easier to work out situations and a better outcome will result because of it.

Once he was done delivering the speech, everyone across the U.S. knew of the new AFL-CIO whose "mission [was] to bring social and economic justice to our nation by enabling working people to have a voice on the job, in government, in a changing global economy and in their communities.


Richard Heckler 7 years ago

In the summer of 1915, amid increased labor demand for World War I, a series of strikes demanding the eight-hour day began in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They were so successful that they spread throughout the Northeast.

The United States Adamson Act in 1916 established an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime, for railroad workers. This was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917).

The eight-hour day might have been realized for many working people in the U.S. in 1937, when what became the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S. Code Chapter 8) was first proposed under the New Deal. As enacted, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented about twenty percent of the U.S. labor force.

In those industries, it set the maximum workweek at 44 hours. but provided that employees working beyond 40 hours a week would receive additional overtime bonus salaries.


puddleglum 7 years ago

poor little Boeing, getting picked on by all those rich union members that don't pay taxes...

oh snap, I got that all backwards.

Go U.S.A.! eliminate the Unions. eliminate voting. eliminate guns. eliminate T.V. eliminate small & medium sized businesses.

shop wal-mart, you go buy iphone-you work hard, you deserve it! Send the rest of the jobs to China too. Soon we work for them.

Mike Ford 7 years ago

South Carolina like many of the other states in the old south also has car plants like BMW. Alabama has Mercedes Benz and Hyundai, Mississippi has Nissan and Toyota, Tennessee has Nissan, and Kentucky has Toyota and I think a new VW plant due to the weak dollar. Why are these plants here you ask? because the cronies of these states like Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and Haley Barbour threw tons of money their way in states with no unions. Compared with uaw plants elsewhere these workers make peanuts and basically live in a peonage state compared to uaw workers elsewhere. They make less than $19 an hour which is big money in dixie while their counterparts make between $25 and $35 an hour elsewhere. The south has always been an encomienda system where the planters and plantation owners had free African labor and poor White sharecroppers to maintain their labor not to mention free land they stole from the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Cherokees as their beloved cotton ruined the fertility of that land in a couple of decades and forced them to leave the Carolinas for the Mississippi River Valley. And yet these clowns succeed in jerking people over and over with deceptive tactics involving religion welfare and guns. I guess I can take Mr. Will's tactics and turn them upside down for the nonsense they are.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

The NLRB may have finally been a tad too open in their JBT attempt to reward the union thugs.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

The NLRB may have finally been a tad too open in their JBT attempt to reward the union thugs.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

Got all clicky, sorry for the double post.

George Lippencott 7 years ago

If a government agency is to decide where each and every major employment center is to be located, do we find ourselves forced to pay those government leaders to obtain a job or to keep one. If so, how much? Do we have rich politicians elected for life? If we change parties, do we get to play 52 pick up with those centers?

Are we already well done that path? Unions take money from their members and give it to elected leaders to accomplish exactly that. We want Biotech in Lawrence and our leaders are busy giving away our tax money in the name of getting it here. Many other cities are doing the same. Sounds like in this case the leaders of the firms courted are making a killing. Sounds like the highest bidder and we the people get none of the money.

Is there an answer to this conundrum??

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

Why doesn't the union simply decide to open their own factory. They have the skilled workers at their disposal. They can simply bypass the "company" and become the "company". I suspect that they would quickly behave exactly the way the "company" does.

jafs 7 years ago

Probably because they don't have the capital to do so.

I don't know about unions and the outcome you mentioned, but I do know that Southwest Airlines is a co-operatively owned business, rates are low, service is generally quite high, and the employees seem happy. Oh, yes, the company is also doing well.

I know there have recently been a few safety concerns with them, which I was sorry to see.

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

I'm almost certain that Southwest Airlines is a publicly traded company. I'm not sure I know what you mean by "co-operatively owned business".

jafs 7 years ago

It was started and operated for many years as a co-operatively owned business, meaning that the employees were the owners, thus negating the usual split between management and labor.

That may have changed, and no longer be true.

Ironically, perhaps that change is the cause of the recent safety problems.

Corey Williams 7 years ago

That's good. Answer an opinion piece with a blog piece. I shouldn't have any reason to doubt the sincerity of a blog, should I?

Mike Ford 7 years ago

funny how some of you avoid the obvious comments that would undermine the garbage that people like Mr. Will and the other dumblicans push. I must be right about this.....

jayhawklawrence 7 years ago

Having spent 30 years in manufacturing across the United States, I know very well the damage the unions can do to manufacturing companies. If you had seen what I have seen and the damage that these people can have on companies you would be leery of them too.

That being said, unions are not necessarily evil. Sometimes they are good but sometimes they can suck the life out of a company. A high technology aerospace company such as Boeing is not the same as a garment factory in Indonesia. I seriously doubt that we will see employees abused as part of their corporate strategy.

One of the most common areas where I saw unions abusing ccompanies was in the auto industry and heavy equipment industries.

The idea of the government getting involved in helping to organize unions and packing the labor board with actual union lawyers is nothing less than scary. The fact that politics has been a huge distraction for one of our greatest companies is a shameful disgrace and has probably contributed to the weak revenue we are now experiencing in Kansas.

It is also a good example of why people who should vote Democrat become encouraged to vote Republican. It is one of those pivotal issues where Independents decide to vote for the lesser of two evils.

That is what Democrats have to worry about when they start getting cozy with unions and ignoring the needs of manufacturers.

notanota 7 years ago

Yes, skilled labor is not the sort of place you want to see unions. Just look how unions ruined the Finnish education system!

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

What some people seem to not realize is that workers in South Carolina can join a union if they want to. Nobody can force them to join a union as a requirement for getting a job. That sort of freedom galls the usual suspects on the sinister side of the aisle.

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