February 26, 2024

Boeing Plant Is Expected to Get Lift From House

The Republican-controlled House is expected to approve an unusual bill that would bar the labor board from pursuing the board’s pending action against Boeing, which Republicans have been denouncing day after day.

Republican leaders and business groups are vigorously backing the bill, saying it would safeguard the freedom of corporations to locate operations where they want.

But many Democrats and labor unions have denounced the bill, asserting that it would badly weaken an independent federal agency and be an improper favor to Boeing, a prominent political contributor.

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

Republicans are angry that the labor board’s acting general counsel filed a complaint against Boeing in April, asserting that the company had built an assembly line in South Carolina to retaliate against unionized workers in Washington State for engaging in numerous strikes.

The National Labor Relations Act bars employers from taking any actions, including transferring an operation, in retaliation against workers for exercising their federally protected rights, including forming a union or going on strike.

Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia and the House majority leader, has condemned the board’s move, calling it an “overbearing action” that discriminates against right-to-work states in the South and makes it “nearly impossible” for Boeing to add additional workers. Several Republican presidential candidates have also criticized the complaint. For example, Mitt Romney visited South Carolina last Monday and called the move “an egregious example of political payback, where the president is able to pay back unions for the hundreds of millions of dollars they put in his campaign.”

The labor board is an independent agency that enforces federal laws regarding unionization and labor-management relations in the private sector. The president appoints its board members and general counsel, who is independent from the board and prosecutes cases claiming unfair labor practices.

The acting general counsel, Lafe E. Solomon, has asked an administrative law judge in Seattle to order Boeing to move the production line, which will build seven planes a month, from South Carolina to Washington State. The House bill to halt action against Boring has a retroactive provision that would nullify labor board complaints, like the Boeing one, for which “final adjudication” has “not been made.”

If the administrative law judge rules against Boeing, the company could appeal to the full board itself.

Mr. Solomon issued a statement Wednesday, saying his decision to issue a complaint against Boeing “was based on a careful investigation and a review of the facts under longstanding federal labor law.”

“The decision had absolutely nothing to do with political considerations, and there were no consultations with the White House,” he said. “Regrettably, some have chosen to insert politics into what should be a straightforward legal procedure. These continuing political attacks are baseless and unprecedented and take the focus away from where it belongs — the ongoing trial in Seattle.”

To prove that Boeing’s decision to assemble the 787 Dreamliners in South Carolina was retaliation, Mr. Solomon pointed to statements by top Boeing executives saying their dismay about past strikes was motivating them to open the production line in North Charleston. But Boeing officials say low costs were the reason they located the plant in South Carolina. Some assembly began there this summer.

Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s president, said the Republican bill was “sleazy legislation,” and added, “This is sweeping legislation that would gut the National Labor Relations Act and result in serious harmful changes to workers’ rights throughout the country.”

He said that if the bill passed, the labor board would be powerless to stop an employer from moving an operation to punish workers who staged a protest against unsafe conditions or sexual or racial discrimination.

Republicans have voiced confidence that the bill will pass the House, which they dominate. But Bill Samuel, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s legislative director, said defeat of the bill was possible, although he said the bill’s chances were not good in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has strongly backed the bill. “No government board should have the authority to dictate where a private employer can run a business,” he said.

But Representative George Miller of California, the committee’s senior Democrat, said the bill was “the Outsourcers’ Bill of Rights.” He said that Republicans were pushing the bill “to change the rules midtrial on behalf of one Fortune 500 company.”

Aric Newhouse, senior vice president for policy and government relations with the National Association of Manufacturers, said the action against Boeing was hurting job creation and discouraging investment in right-to-work states.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=76051188e38317c5047d6ce1d0311e62

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