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When bad businesses break the law, it's not just bad for business -- it's bad for families, workers, and all of us as Americans. Last week, in retaliation for workers exercising legally protected rights, Boeing announced they would be moving a factory from Washington state to South Carolina.

Doing this is against the law. In fact, Boeing publicly admitted to it.

The umpire for disputes such as this is the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB), which brings both sides to the table, listens to the opposing arguments, and decides upon the merits of the case. The NRLB is a neutral agency appointed in a bipartisan manner that acts like a "courtroom" for labor disputes.

In the case of Boeing, the NRLB will deliberate upon the facts and then most likely confirm what others have already said, which is that Boeing broke the law. Whether you like it or not, moving a factory to punish workers for exercising their rights as Americans is against the laws on the books.

While Boeing engaged in this illegal act (and was summarily brought before the NRLB for a prolonged battle), their stock price has dropped by more than 3 percent since this was announced last week. Many financial analysts connect the depreciation of stock value directly to the labor dispute. Apparently, breaking the law is bad for business too.

Instead of working to reconcile their differences, comport corporate practices to the law, or attempt to fix the situation in any way, Boeing has now enlisted the Chamber of Commerce and numerous Republican politicians into a dishonest campaign to discredit the NRLB (which has Republicans on it, by the way).

The government is right to step in and protect workers' rights here, and the Chamber of Commerce is completely wrong. Their agenda is clearly to dismantle and defund the NRLB (an idea promoted openly by Newt Gingrich), so this way, corporations can operate with complete immunity to the law.

From our country's labor history, though, it is clear that the invisible hand of the market does not compute the human cost of lost limbs and lost lives on the factory floor. This is why it is necessary to have safeguards in the workplace, protections that are enforceable by law, and a "courtroom" for labor disputes when they arise.

Punishing workers for exercising their rights takes us back to those dark days when workers had no protections at all in the workplace. Americans already fought this fight 100 years ago, and our country should not go back to allowing child labor, employer negligence, and hazardous working conditions.

This reversal of rights is exactly what is being pursued by the U.S. Chamber, corporate lobbyists, and Republicans across the country. In erasing the protections gained by an earlier generation of workers, these bastions of big business are likely correct to suspect that it makes the cost of doing business cheaper.

Refusing to calculate costs paid by someone else is always cheaper. For example, look at the recent financial crisis caused by corporate malfeasance and the subsequent taxpayer funded bailouts. That's fairly cheap from the perspective of bailed-out banks, but it's not a very good deal for the rest of us in America. In fact, the moral hazard and haphazard volatility created in the economy is bad for all the other businesses in the market.

More vitally though, violating the rights of workers to satisfy the bottom line cheapens our country morally, and that is a cost we cannot afford. Attacking working families and the right to organize is simply un-American, and those participating in this power grab should be ashamed of themselves for pursuing such a reckless policy.

Politicizing this agency to score cheap political points, like the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to do, is dangerous for workers and businesses too. When there is no longer a "courtroom" for labor disputes, where will both sides go to reconcile their differences and help everyone to get back to work?

For all of those involved, persistent and irreconcilable conflict in the workplace is neither healthy nor productive. When the factory lines shut down, employers are not making money and workers are not making wages. Nobody works, nobody wins -- this is bad for business and bad for working families. But, sometimes it is necessary to shut down the line to send a message.

We all need to send the message to the U.S. Chamber and these reckless corporations that breaking the law is bad for business too. When there is conflict in the workplace, workers should have a place to settle their differences with employers. The NRLB acts as a neutral arbiter in labor disputes -- let's keep it that way. Let's all tell the Chamber of Commerce to leave the NRLB alone and let them do their job.

Follow Ryan Clayton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/100ProofPolitic

Cross-Posted from HuffingtonPost.com.

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Comment Preferences

  •  When there is no "courtroom" for labor disputes... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    notrouble, Dirtandiron

    ... then either businesses will rule their employees like indentured servants, or disputes will be settled in the streets.  Again.  With similar results.

    The United States of America is a socialist government which promotes a capitalistic economy.  It's a tricky balance, but something we need to do.  As soon as we become a capitalistic government, we lose what it means to be American.

    T/R

    "People should not be afraid of their government; governments should be afraid of their people." --V

    by MikeTheLiberal on Mon May 23, 2011 at 08:15:50 AM PDT

  •  Before SC gloats about this too much (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tcdup, Dirtandiron, terabytes

    perhaps they should recall textiles - yeah, it was nice to poach that industry from the high wage states.

    But, of course, you're just a way station on the way to even cheaper 3rd world wages . . .

  •  Last Week? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MGross

    When did you write this? Boeing announced their move in 2009.

  •  As I understand it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    Boing is contending that they are not "moving" a factory, but rather "building a new factory," and that jobs in WA have increased and will not decrease as a result of having new jobs in SC.

    In other words, they are claiming that there is a difference between closing a plant in response to labor activity and incorporating labor activity as a factor in deciding where to site new plants.

    I'm pro-union, but this sounds like a fairly good rebuttal to the NLRB charges.

    I'd love to be able to argue against this talking point.  Can someone help.

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Mon May 23, 2011 at 08:33:32 AM PDT

    •  Here's some resources for you. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      1918, VClib

      My post has the act in question and the NLRB's complaint

      Basically, the NLRB is taking an amazingly broad reading of the Act.

      •  The NLRB is REALLY stretching things here (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, 1918, MGross

        If you read that complaint.  

        Not one place -- nowhere -- does anybody allege that Boeing had any obligation to put that second (new) assembly line in Washington.  Not in the collective bargaining agreement.  Not in any kind of agreement with Washington.

        What happened is that Boeing said (honestly) that strikes cost them money, that it was cheaper for them to put that new assembly line in a so-called "right to work" state where they were less likely to have the expense of strikes, and that was one of the major reasons they locating the new assembly line there.   Companies factor that stuff in all the time.  Boeing is saying out loud what a lot of companies think:  that it's cheaper for them in a so-called "right to work" state.  So, when they had a decision to make about where to locate a new facility, they took that into account.  There is no law that prevents them from factoring in the fact that a state is "right to work" when they make a decision.  So-called "right to work" states actually count on that fact bringing facilities to their states.  

        That complaint doesn't allege that any of their existing workers in Washington is being affected.  What is happening is that Boeing decided to put new work somewhere else, in a so-called "right to work" state.  You may think that's morally reprehensible,  but it's a real big stretch to find that in violation of the law.

        Companies locate facilities in so-called right to work states because they are non-union all the time.   If you follow the reasoning of the Complaint, then once XYZ Company has a facility in a union state, and there is a strike that XYZ Company doesn't like, then, when they decide to open a new facility, they can't put that new facility in a "right-to-work" state.  That's not the law.  They can't move existing work in retaliation. But the fact that one facility is union does not mean that every subsequent facility has to be in a union state.  Again, I'm talking law, not morality.  

        Retaliation has generally meant that something negative happened to your existing workers.  I'm not aware of any instance where failing to hire new workers for a new facility because you located that new facility elsewhere constituted "retaliation."  

        I can't imagine that this one makes it very far in the court system.  

    •  Naive would be the key word here. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      They specifically said they were choosing SC because the union wouldn't play ball their way.  And take a look at what historically happens when they build a new nonunion plant.  Within short order the old plant shuts down.  Taking Boeing at their wordplay here is not just naive, it's downright stupid.  Hopefully, the NLRB isn't that.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Mon May 23, 2011 at 09:38:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But not illegal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        unless Boeing had an obligation to located that new assembly line in Washington (and the complaint never alleges that they did) it's not illegal to choose SC because the line won't be union.  

        Deciding to build a new facility in a new state has never been considered "retaliation" against your existing workers (the ones who went on strike in 2008) because nothing is happening to them -- nobody's losing a job (in fact, Boeing has added workers in Washington), nobody's getting a cut in pay or hours.  For retaliation, you'd have to allege that the workers who went on strike were adversely affected.  Unless Boeing had some obligation to those workers to locate the new assembly line in Washington (and nobody's saying they did) I can't see how it's retaliation in the legal sense.  

        •  And that's what the NLRB is going to be deciding. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron

          You're talking as though the NLRB deciding the investigate is tantamount to a decision against Boeing.  It's pretty sad when an organization is attacked simply for looking at a situation to determine whether illegal activity is taking place.  

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Mon May 23, 2011 at 10:02:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, what I'm responding to is the assumption (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            1918, VClib

            of the diarist that Boeing "broke the law."  I'm a lawyer, and looking at the complaint, it seems like that complaint, in lawyers' terms, "failed to state a claim" -- that is, even if you accept what the Complaint says as true, what is says doesn't seem to me to be a violation of the law.  In the Court system, that kind of thing would be subject to a motion to dismiss right away.  Basically, that would say, "Show me your facts that (1) there was some obligation to locate the new assembly line in Washington or (2) some existing workers in Washington were negatively affected.  In a Court, if the Complaint didn't even allege one of those, I tend to think it would be dismissed at the beginning of the litigation (on what we call a rule 12(b) motion).  

  •  Are they building a new one in SC or moving? (0+ / 0-)

    When was the most recent strike in WA?

    Those details seem to matter.

    •  New one (0+ / 0-)

      And the job count in WA has gone up, not down. I believe the last strike in WA was in 2008.

      •  Yet Boeing claims there are strikes every 3 to 4 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron

        months.  But we're supposed to believe once the new nonunion plant is built in SC, the job count will continue to grow in WA?  Or even stay close to the same?  Just like happened with all the the other manufacturing.  Or maybe you don't recall when there actually were manufacturing jobs in Michigan and New York and Pennsylvania.

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Mon May 23, 2011 at 09:41:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  100Proof - Boeing didn't move anything (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk

    Boeing decided to add new capacity, for a new plane, in South Carolina, rather than adding capacity in Seattle. No employees in Seattle are being terminated and all the planes currently being built in Seattle will continue to be manufactured there.   Nearly everything I have read suggests that the NLRB decision will not stand the first legal challenge in court. I think that characterizing Boeing's decision to locate new capacity in South Carolina as "reckless" is nonsense.  Unless the unions in Seattle had a veto clause in their contracts Boeing was free to add the new capacity anywhere in the world. I'm glad it's in the USA, not China.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon May 23, 2011 at 10:34:52 AM PDT

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