Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boeing Blackmailed

Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board dropped its complaint against Boeing. As you will recall, the NLRB's controversial complaint was prompted by the aircraft manufacturer's establishment of a second assembly line in a right-to-work state (South Carolina), meaning employees there could not be compelled to join a union.

Contrary to appearances, the NLRB didn't bow to political pressure or try to defuse a potential issue for President Obama's re-election. Rather, the settlement was a quid-pro-quo for Boeing's agreeing to a collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists so union workers will build the 737 Max jet in Washington state. The Wall Street Journal wonders:
Has there ever been a more blatant case of a supposedly independent agency siding with a union over management in collective bargaining?

Boeing says the new contract wasn't tied directly to a settlement of the NLRB complaint, and that it always made sense to build the 737 Max in Renton, Washington because its work force has experience on the current 737 and offers natural efficiencies.

But it's hard to resist the conclusion that Boeing felt obliged to make the agreement to save its more than $1 billion investment in South Carolina, where it is building 787s. Boeing might have won a legal battle in the end, but first it would have to run through an administrative law judge, then the politicized and Obama-stacked NLRB, and only then would it get to an appellate court. Meanwhile, its investment was in jeopardy and its legal bill was rising.

As for the NLRB, its decision to drop the case so quickly after the machinists cut their deal exposes how politically motivated the Boeing suit was. The NLRB is supposed to be a fair-minded referee in labor disputes, making sure neither side breaks the law. But the board put its fist squarely on the union side to make Boeing pay a price for moving one of its 787 assembly lines to a right-to-work state, to make sure Boeing never did that again, and to demonstrate to any other unionized company that its investment is at risk if it makes the same decision.

By dropping the case, the Obama team at the NLRB can claim it delivered those lessons without ever having to contest them in court. Oh, and Democrats running for Senate in right-to-work states, like Tim Kaine in Virginia, are spared from having to endorse a union position that is unpopular because it costs their states jobs.
Talk about a "rogue" agency (in the words of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)). Although the NLRB formerly said it found no evidence "that Boeing failed to bargain in good faith" with its Washington state unions, the agency managed to force a new deal, puting a thumb on the scales of management-union relations and discouraging expansion in right-to-work jurisdictions. Plus, because it was a "voluntary" settlement, the agency worked its will while avoiding judicial review.

You can't really fault Boeing for capitulating to get a gun holstered after being pointed at its head. But bullying American manufacturers for Big Labor votes can only result in more outsourcing. Plus, it remains an alarming example of this Administration's willingness to play politics at the expense of the rule of law.

(via RedState)

4 comments:

OBloodyHell said...

>>> and to demonstrate to any other unionized company that its investment is at risk if it makes the same decision.

What it demonstrates is
a) Never to do such a thing when a Democrat is in office
b) Not to set up shop in a union state in the first place at all.

In the long run, it will weaken unions, not strengthen them.

They are desperate, and they know it.

OBloodyHell said...

>>> You can't really fault Boeing for capitulating to get a gun holstered after being pointed at its head.

Sorry, yes you can, and yes, I do.

You have to stand for something. Boeing management has indicated instead that they'll stand for anything. In the long run, that will cost not only them, but the American people. Their capitulation only emboldens the unions and their sycophants.

Yeah, sometimes, when they bad guy gets a bead on you, you have a choice to fight back or to give in... the basic question is -- are you man or mouse? Will you fight or flee? And the best response to a bully is now, and has always been to stand up to them. Yes, you may well LOSE and be hurt -- but one quality of a bully is that if you make it clear you won't give in to them, then they will look elsewhere for someone to bully. They aren't looking for wins, they are looking for easy wins. Don't make it easy, and the next time they'll find another target.

At the least, they should have fought a delaying battle over this until 11/2012 -- given competent lawyers and a complex case, this is a standard tactic among corporations, and almost certainly doable. After that point, they would know if it were three short months they had to go or four long years.

Carl said...

OBH: Disagree. Boeing is a for-profit company responsible to its shareholders. It is not an arm of the Republican party. Predicting the outcome of any government enforcement proceeding is essentially impossible. And Boeing management made some unwise statements to the media (see pages 4-5), potentially giving the appearance of anti-union animus.

Boeing was going to expand its Washington State facilities, and employment, anyway. The sweeteners in the new CBA probably cost less than Boeing's legal fees.

The real issue is that the dropping of the complaint proves that the NLRB is a lawless pro-union agency, instead of a neutral body guarding against unfair labor practices or unlawful restraints on the right to bargain collectively. Boeing has to suffer the consequences, but Boeing doesn't necessarily have the responsibility to fix it. We, the electorate, do.

OBloodyHell said...

>>> OBH: Disagree. Boeing is a for-profit company responsible to its shareholders.

There's also a social responsibility issue to be dealt with.

At some time, you have to make a stand, and not take the cheap, quick, and easy way out. This is just as true for corporations as it is for individuals.

Boeing is going to lose in the LONG run over this, and that's the reason they should make the stand NOW rather than later.

>>> Boeing has to suffer the consequences, but Boeing doesn't necessarily have the responsibility to fix it. We, the electorate, do.

Boeing just eliminated a large chunk of the impetus to do so. Why fight when one of the key players already crumpled?

Boeing has a responsibility to be PART of the fix. That's why I said they should be delaying it until at least the fact of 11/2012 is done.