Unions Need Government


Boeing has a new plane called the 787 Dreamliner, which is pretty darned cool, as you can see from the video below.

In addition to its other features, the plane can automatically administer sedatives to little kids who kick the back of your seat, and when someone spends more than 60 seconds trying to wrestle an oversized bag into the luggage bins, a robot arm with a boxing glove swings down from the ceiling and puts them down.

In order to build these planes, Boeing had to construct a new plant.  They already have facilities in Washington State, so they tried to work out a deal with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to get the new production line going.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the union’s demands included “a seat on Boeing’s board and a promise that Boeing would build all future airplanes in Puget Sound.”  Boeing didn’t want to meet their price, so it decided to build the new plant in South Carolina instead, where the Dreamliners can be constructed by non-union labor.

The union complained to Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board, of which even the New York Times says, “But ever since a Democratic majority took control of the five-member board after Mr. Obama’s election, the board has signaled that it would seek to adopt a more liberal, pro-union tilt after years of pro-employer decisions under President Bush.”

How’s this for a “pro-union” tilt?  The NLRB announced Wednesday that it would seek to force Boeing to move its production line back to the unionized plant in Washington.

According to the Times, the NLRB complaint says Boeing’s decision to move to South Carolina was “motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes.” 

There’s not much doubt about the desires of Boeing executives.  One of them told the Seattle Times that “The overriding factor was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.”  What puzzles everyone, including angry South Carolina senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, is how this desire could be “unlawful.”  It doesn’t violate the contract between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  What “law” is the NLRB talking about?

The union’s vice president, Rich Michalski, claims the decision to move Dreamliner production to a non-union plant “sent a message that Boeing workers would suffer financial harm for exercising their collective bargaining rights.”  How perfectly Orwellian!  It’s not really collective “bargaining” if one side can’t lose.  The company did bargain with the union in this case.  They couldn’t reach a satisfactory agreement… and now we’re told that “collective bargaining rights” can only be respected if Boeing is dragged back to the table and forced to submit to union demands.

Lafe Solomon, general counsel for the NLRB, defended his agency’s actions by asserting that “a worker’s right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act,” but Boeing isn’t preventing anyone from striking.  They’re exercising legal (and sound) business options to protect themselves from the threat.  The NLRB’s action is like saying that someone’s “right to free speech” means the audience can be legally strapped into chairs and forced to listen. 

The “collective bargaining” power of a union depends on control of the labor market.  In order to get what it wants from Boeing, the aerospace workers must prevent them from walking away from the bargaining table and finding a better deal in South Carolina.  Only government can provide the compulsive force necessary to do that.  This is one of the reasons unions are such staunch allies of Big Government.  When their demands pass the point where employing the services of their membership is rational, they need the power of the State to survive.