A federal judge denied Boeing’s motion to dismiss a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit that charged the aerospace giant with unfairly penalizing Washington workers’ collective bargaining rights by moving a new production line to South Carolina.
Administrative Law Judge Clifford Anderson is allowing the case against Boeing to proceed to trial. The NLRB charged Boeing executives with retaliating against union workers in Washington state for striking by opening up the South Carolina factory, which Boeing flat-out denies.
With job creation at the forefront of politicians’ minds in Washington, D.C., the issue has become fodder for the 2012 election with Republican contenders blaming the Obama administration with unfairly penalizing Boeing and showing its anti-business hand. The administration appoints top officials at the NRLB, though the agency operates in an independent manner.
President Obama’s first comments on the matter, however, had some pro-union factions up in arms because they appeared to support Boeing’s decision to relocate an operation to South Carolina.
“What I do know is this — that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate,” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system. And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.”
“And what it doesn’t make — what I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement,” he continued.
A spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declined to comment on the meaning of Obama’s remarks, but Graham did not hold back when it came to blasting the judge’s decision to allow the NLRB case to proceed.
“Right now Boeing is stuck in what amounts to a union-controlled NLRB Star Chamber whose sole purpose is to extract a pound of flesh from the company,” Graham said in a statement. “Eventually Boeing will break free from the union-dominated process and move to a truly independent court of law. It’s there Boeing ultimately prevails over this frivolous NLRB complaint.”
“South Carolina earned the right to build these airplanes and no unelected bureaucracy is going to take that away from us,” he added.