Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boeing Boeing

This piece from yesterday's New York Times is a troubling one.
For businesses, it was the type of action they have feared from a National Labor Relations Board dominated by Democrats. For labor unions, it was the type of action they have hoped for. And for both, it may be a sign of things to come.

These fears and hopes were stirred this week when the labor board’s top lawyer filed a case against Boeing, seeking to force it to move airplane production from a nonunion plant in South Carolina to a unionized one in Washington State. Boeing executives had publicly said they were making the move to avoid the kind of strikes the airplane maker had repeatedly faced in Washington; Lafe Solomon, the labor board’s acting general counsel, said the company’s motive constituted illegal retaliation against workers for exercising their right to strike.
So, apparently Boeing had the gall to state the obvious, which is that trouble with the Boeing workers' union in Washington State might have something to do with the fact that Boeing has opened a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. At best, the case will burn up some resources - public ones, and Boeing's - in court. At worst, Boeing would actually have to move the whole operation back to Washington State, weakening a company that is a prime target for a federal bailout during our next financial crisis.

Solomon's interpretation of the law seems overzealous, and the article gives you the idea that the government will ultimately lose, but of course the law is open to interpretation. This seems to be one of those cases where the law is an ass, or a first-class doofus. If the legal principle is that choice of plant location can be inferred to be "retaliation" against a union, then any action by a firm that makes a union worse off should be retaliation. The auto industry seems to be moving en masse from the north to the south. Is that retaliation? Is it retaliation if a new firm chooses to locate in a right-to-work state?


  1. Steve:

    Didn't you mean 'right-to-work' state? 'Work-to-rule' is a labor tactic employed to generally slow things down on the job.

    In any case, 'overzealous' is a kind description of this disturbing inanity.

  2. This is pretty scary stuff. It's a only a small leap to file a lawsuit for "preemptive retaliation", or something like that.Then the Unions control the company. We should have a serious discussion in this country about Unions, and hopefully the idea of their "rights" can be discredited.

  3. Phil,

    Oops. Yes, I do that sometimes. I'll think increase and write decrease. I had in my head a three-word phrase applying to unions. Typos corrected.


    Yes, I can see that hiring thugs to beat up union organizers is and should be illegal. But this cleary gives unions too much power. Where I grew up in Ontario, labor law permits a union to do some very bizarre things, particularly during a strike.

  4. Agreed. Don't know much about strikes, but I've had my run-ins with unions working at grocery stores. First time they got me fired, next time I never re joined and never payed the jerks any dues. Don't know if anyone has ever written about it, but from what I can tell there's a very small minority of people who stay at union jobs in service industries long enough to gain any real benefit from them. But there are a lot of young people who work there a small amount of time and don't need the unions services at all. So really the unions are extracting a huge amount of labor(union dues) from young temporary workers to pay for the small minority that use the services, and for political campaigns. I think this would fit the Marxist idea of what an employer is like pretty well. it's just ironic.