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House Rebukes NLRB on Boeing

by Seung Min Kim

The GOP-led House on Thursday launched a full-scale assault against the National Labor Relations Board – the first step in their fall goal of rolling back regulations that they say hamper job growth.

“All of these attacks are designed to remove a vital check on corporate power overrunning our democracy,” Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, said recently. The chamber voted 238-186 on a bill that bars the NLRB from forcing businesses to close or relocate jobs — a direct rebuke of a recent decision by the board to block Boeing from moving a plant to South Carolina. The legislation likely doesn’t have much of a future in the Democratic-controlled Senate, although Republicans in the upper chamber have pushed for action on the matter.

“The NLRB has plenty of tools at its disposal to protect workers and hold employers accountable for unlawful labor practices,” said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who sponsored the bill. “There is simply no reason it should have the power to dictate where a private business can establish its workforce.”

The dispute – which has become a cause célèbre among conservatives — stems from Boeing’s opening of a $1 billion non-union plant in South Carolina, following union strikes that disrupted production of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft in Washington state. The labor board argues that Boeing’s actions were in retaliation against the strikes and a violation of labor laws.

Boeing has argued that shuttering the South Carolina facility would eliminate 1,000 jobs.

Lafe Solomon, the NLRB’s acting general counsel, has defended his board’s ruling and said it wasn’t politically motivated.

House Republicans have made Thursday’s vote the first step in their autumn agenda of dismantling federal regulations in areas such as labor, health care and the environment that they say are shredding jobs in the United States. They plan to target the NLRB again in the winter, when they’ll take up action in response to the board’s proposed changes to union representation election procedures.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also held a June hearing in South Carolina investigating the NLRB ruling. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has subpoenaed the NLRB for documents related to the dispute, claiming that the labor board’s rulings could set a “job-killing precedent.”

The NLRB-Boeing fight has also become a pivotal 2012 issue since it involves the critical early primary state of South Carolina. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, a coveted endorsement for any GOP nominee, has railed against the NLRB ruling and called it a “rogue agency.”

House Democrats termed the legislation the “GOP’s Job Outsourcers’ Bill of Rights” and hammered Republicans for pushing a bill that they contend would harm workers and ship more jobs overseas.

“All of these attacks are designed to remove a vital check on corporate power overrunning our democracy,” Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, said recently. “Working families don’t need smaller paychecks. And workers don’t need fewer protections on the job. But that’s what they will get if this bill becomes law.”
 

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