As expected, Republicans in Congress are making political hay out of a controversial move by the National Labor Relations Board to challenge Boeing’s decision to build a $1 billion aircraft manufacturing facility in South Carolina.
However, Arkansas Democrats aren’t necessarily rushing to defend the NLRB action.
On April 20, NLRB Regional Director Richard Ahearn said the Boeing decision to locate a plant in South Carolina was made to “discourage” union workers from engaging in protected union activities. Evidence cited in the NLRB ruling included several news reports in which Boeing officials said part of the decision was based on fear of future union strikes disrupting Dreamliner production. It’s possible that Ahearn’s ruling could force Boeing to close its Charleston, S.C., plant.
A hearing on the matter is set for June 14 in Seattle.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., filed on Thursday a bill (S 964) that would amend the National Labor Relations Act. Specifically, the proposed legislation would prevent the NLRB from ordering 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.
During a May 11 interview with “Talk Politics,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said the NLRB action “could be detrimental to Arkansas’ economic development efforts if that is carried to some extreme conclusion.”
Like South Carolina, Arkansas is a right-to-work state.
Considered a more conservative Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, was guarded in his reaction to the growing NLRB-Boeing controversy.
"One of the reasons Congress created the independent National Labor Relations Board was to carefully investigate claims such as these made against Boeing,” Ross, who represents Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District, noted in a statement. “We are just now at the beginning of a very long legal process and I am hopeful the final outcome will continue to respect our nation’s long-held free market principles, while also protecting the rights of workers.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, are not nearly as reserved. Boozman, one of 34 U.S. Senate Republicans to support S 964, issued a statement Friday (May 13) saying he agreed with Beebe’s assessment.
“Governor Beebe is right to be worried — attacking job creators and right-to-work states, like Arkansas, is not the recipe for economic recovery,” Boozman said. “The administration’s power grab for Big Labor is an assault on Arkansas workers, states’ rights, and American businesses, and it must be stopped.”
Womack sought to more directly tie the controversy to President Barack Obama.
“The move by the NLRB on the Boeing issue should be of concern to every right-to-work state in America. It is a serious overreach of government, and it is a slap in the face and counter to the free enterprise principles on which this country was founded,” Womack said. “And I would say it is illustrative of the continuous assault against the free enterprise system in this country by the Obama administration.”
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.