Nikki Haley and the Right to Work


Nikki Haley, who strode proudly over a pile of media garbage to become the governor of South Carolina in the 2010 elections, has just reached the end of her first hundred days in office.  “My number one thing is we are not borrowing any more federal money,” she said in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

You know what else she’s not taking from the federal government?  Well, it’s something South Carolina’s thriving beef industry already generates in abundance.

Haley stepped into the battle between the National Labor Relations Board and Boeing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, and she minced no words.  Boeing has been planning to build a new production line for its Dreamliner aircraft in right-to-work South Carolina, after failing to reach an agreement with labor unions in the state of Washington.  The NLRB is trying to drag Boeing back to Washington with the force of law.

“In choosing to manufacture in my state,” writes Haley, “Boeing was exercising its right as a free enterprise in a free nation to conduct business wherever it believed would best serve both the bottom line and the employees of its company.  This is not a novel or complicated idea.  It’s called capitalism.”

She’s proud of South Carolina’s status as a right-to-work state, where “workers cannot be required to join a labor union as a condition of employment.”  She says “that is apparently too much for President Obama and his union-beholden appointees at the National Labor Relations Board, who have asked the courts to intervene and force Boeing to stop production in South Carolina.”

One of the crucial elements of this thing called “capitalism” is competition.  The government has a role to play in policing anti-competitive forces, such as monopolies and fraud… but government power is the greatest anti-competitive force of all.  There is no real “competition” when the referee starts playing for one of the teams. 

There is a word for negotiations conducted under the threat of punishment by force, and it sure as hell isn’t “capitalism.”  The vast federal regulatory apparatus shoved Boeing back into a windowless room with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers, settled its vast bulk into a creaky chair on the union side of the table, and told Boeing executives to siddown and shaddup.

Can the unions of Washington state offer competitive advantages over the non-union workers of South Carolina?  Not enough to justify the gigantic concessions they wanted from Boeing, which included a contractual obligation to build all future aircraft in the Puget Sound area.  The important point is that the union doesn’t have to try all that hard to be competitive… not when its friends in the Administration stand ready to ensure it has no competitors.  Instead of policing monopolies, the government is creating one, for the benefit of political allies.

Capitalism soars because competition is hard.  You don’t have to train very hard to win a race if you know the referee will use the starting gun to kneecap your opponents.  As Haley points out in her editorial, the general counsel of the NLRB, Lafe Solomon, hasn’t even been confirmed by the Senate, but he’s already launching an “unprecedented” action against “an iconic American company.”

Haley can take some comfort in knowing she doesn’t fight this battle alone.  The attorneys general of Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, and Oklahoma have written a letter to the NLRB, saying its complaint against Boeing “represents an assault upon the constitutional right of free speech, and the ability of our states to create jobs and recruit industry. Your ill-conceived retaliatory action seeks to destroy our citizens’ right to work.”

“Our states are struggling to emerge from one of the worst economic collapses since the Depression. Your complaint further impairs an economic recovery,” the letter continues. “Intrusion by the federal bureaucracy on behalf of unions will not create a single new job or put one unemployed person back to work.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers claims Boeing is engaged in “union busting.”  That’s the new euphemism for “competition.”  The IAMAW wants to become a government agency that dispenses labor to corporate supplicants.  That’s not how capitalism works.  It has no room for suppliers who merge with centralized bureaucracies.  It only flourishes when every customer is a king.  If one supplier does not choose to attend court, another will be eager to take their place.

“This is not just a South Carolina issue,” Haley concludes in her op-ed.  “President Obama owes the people of our country a response. If they get away with this government-dictated economic larceny, the unions won’t stop in our state.  The nation deserves an explanation as to why the president’s appointees are doing the machinist union’s dirty work on the backs of the businesses and workers of South Carolina.”

Good luck with that, Governor.  Getting such an explanation from a bought-and-paid-for union Democrat will make getting Obama to produce his birth certificate look like child’s play.  It would require the President to explain why Boeing should abandon its commitment to South Carolina and build that plant in Washington… not why they must.