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Whose Side is the NLRB On?

It’s hard to imagine Uncle Sam telling Walt Disney where to make movies or McDonald’s how many hamburgers to make, but if you take a look at the case of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) versus Boeing, you’ll see that the federal government is trying to do just that: dictate where and how private industry may do business. And it’s doing so to bolster one of President Barack Obama’s favorite special interests—labor unions.

To catch you up on the story, Boeing Corporation decided to build a new assembly plant in Charleston, South Carolina, in order to produce the 787 Dreamliner. The NLRB (which is responsible investigating unfair labor practices) got wind of the decision and last month filed a complaint against Boeing, alleging that the company decided to build the plant in South Carolina out of retaliation for union strikes at its Washington state facilities. Nevermind that Boeing actually added 2,000 jobs in Washington on this particular project.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning that Boeing can hire non-union workers. For fans of big labor (like President Obama and his allies), right-to-work states are a threat to unions’ dominance. (It’s worth noting that the NLRB today is composed of four members, three of whom are Obama appointees.)

The NLRB’s intentions, then, could be easily inferred. It is doing all it can to help unions at the expense of right-to-work states, corporations and at the end of the day, American workers. But in this case, we have even more than inference.

The Washington Examiner reports that a leaked NLRB memo “makes clear that President Obama and the radical labor advocates he put on it are embarked on a calculated campaign to make unionized firms even harder to manage.” The memo, which was obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and James Sherk, “shows that the board seeks to elevate union officials to equal partners with executives in corporate boardrooms of all unionized firms.” The Examiner continues:

The memo instructs NLRB regional operatives to flag all cases in which unionized firms made relocation decisions without submitting detailed economic justifications to their unions. The board plans “case-by-case” reviews, followed by prosecutions of selected cases. The intended consequence is that all major business decisions will become subject to approval by unions.

Remarkably, the NLRB has attempted to deny that it’s telling Boeing how to make basic business decisions, despite all evidence to the contrary. In an interview with The Street, NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said:

We are not telling Boeing they can’t build planes in South Carolina,” Cleeland clarified, in an interview. “We are talking about one specific piece of work: three planes a month. If they keep those three planes a month in Washington, there is no problem.” Beyond the ten planes, she said, Boeing could build whatever it wants in South Carolina.

So Boeing can make some planes, but not the planes the NLRB says it can’t make? That still sounds like the federal government dictating private business decisions, doesn’t it? However the NLRB wants to parse words or spin the story, it remains that its actions fly smack in the face of the rule of law. Simply put, the federal government does not have the legal authority to tell a company where it can expand its business. Sherk and von Spakovsky warn:

The NLRB’s decision to issue a complaint represents an unbridled, unauthorized, and unlawful expansion of the regulatory power of an executive agency. If allowed to stand, its actions threaten business investment and job creation as well as the employment of both unionized and nonunion workers.

Borrowing a page from the union intimidation playbook, the NLRB’s general counsel released a statement earlier this month warning Boeing not to “litigate this case in the media and public arena.” It is clear to the NLRB that its actions against Boeing would be unpopular nationally—and especially in South Carolina—so they do not desire attention or transparency. But as in most cases, when an agency like the NLRB wants the media to ignore a story, more media scrutiny is likely required.

Millions of Americans continue to suffer unemployment. Yet as businesses try to get back on their feet, the union-dominated NLRB is expanding its reach to win short-term gain for its big labor special interest allies at the economy’s expense. As the NLRB hurts businesses, job creation suffers right along with it. It’s time for Congress to take action to prevent the NLRB from inflicting even more damage on America’s economy.

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