Alexander: NLRB complaint against Boeing will export jobs

Friday, May 20, 2011

WASHINGTON -- A National Labor Relations Board lawyer's complaint against Boeing for expanding production to South Carolina could hurt job expansion in Tennessee, Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep Diane Black, the congressman who represents Marshall County, said during her visit to CKNA in Lewisburg that she, too, is concerned about implications of the complaint as it might affect decisions by Japanese manufacturers.

The NLRB acting counsel alleged that the fact that the Boeing Co. is expanding its production of airliners at a new plant in South Carolina - a right-to-work state - is prima facie evidence of an unfair labor practice, the Tennessee senator explained in remarks made to the Senate.

"If jobs cannot move into Tennessee and other right-to-work states because of the Boeing complaint, they may not move into the states that do not have a right-to-work law," Alexander continued. "If you want to put a plant in, say, Michigan, which is a unionized state, you might not do that because you then could not move to South Carolina or Tennessee or Arkansas or any other state with a right-to-work law."

Alexander and two other senators last week introduced the Job Protection Act of 2011 to preserve federal protections of state right-to-work laws, clarify that the NLRB would not be able to order an employer to relocate jobs from one location to another, and guarantee an employer the right to decide where to do business within the United States.

If the NLRB's acting counsel's decision prevails, it "would... establish for the first time since... 1947, the idea that it is against ... federal law for a company that is producing in a union state to move or expand its facilities in a right-to-work state."

Boeing's lawyer said the company expects to lose its appeal of the complaint at an administrative judge heating June 14. Boeing expects to lose the appeal of that decision to the National Labor Relations Board because the company assumes that the board's lawyer is following the same view of the law that the President's appointees on the NLRB are following. However, then Boeing expects to win the case when it goes to the Appeals Court or, perhaps, the Supreme Court.

"But it will take two to five years for all that to happen," Alexander said. "What happens to American jobs in the meantime?"

He concludes that it will "slow the number of good, new jobs coming into... Tennessee."

The auto industry chose to come to Tennessee partly because it's a right-to-work state, Alexander said.

Right to work states are contrasted with states where, for example, factory workers would be required to join a union to work. That's called a closed shop meaning membership is required because the union has the work contract with the factory. Open shop rules prevail in Tennessee where workers have the right to work without being a member of the union.

Alexander's remarks that did not name the acting general counsel of the NLRB.