The Labor Box

Over at Red State, LaborUnionReport picks through the legal rationale for the National Labor Relations Board’s persecution of Boeing, on behalf of the aircraft machinists’ union in Washington State, and comes to some alarming conclusions. 

To summarize, the government’s case against Boeing is that the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 forbids companies to interfere with the right of workers to organize and go on strike.  Among the actionable forms of interference are “discrimination in regard to hire, or tenure of employment, or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.”  The Boeing plan to open a new production line in right-to-work South Carolina is seen as retaliation against the union in Washington for going on strike in 2008, an action that cost Boeing $1.8 billion.

What turns this already terrifying exercise of government power into “Pandora’s Box” is that the NLRB has already set the precedent of applying Labor Act standards to third-party companies.  In other words, if your company is entertaining bids from both union and non-union contractors, and you choose the non-union one, the NLRB could decide you were punishing the union for its past history of strikes by refusing to hire its employer.

My only quibble with LaborUnionReport’s analogy is that stuff came out of Pandora’s Box.  The labor box contains a howling black hole that will suck in countless American jobs.

The mere possibility of such third-party prosecution would frighten a lot of employers away from dealing with non-union labor in competitive bids.  Paradoxically, this fear would become more pronounced the more often the unions in question went on strike, because it would be easier for the NLRB to make the case that a history of strikes led the employer to choose a non-union contractor, thus ”punishing” the union for its exercise of collective power. 

The government already does a lot to prevent non-union workers from competing with unions, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which forces non-union shops to bid for government contracts with union-scale wages.  The Boeing precedent would turn this slanted field into an outright protection racket.  The incentive for economically destructive strikes would increase exponentially. 

Non-union shops would be crushed, leading to many lost jobs.  This would make the union bosses very happy, because their power relies upon monopolistic control of labor.  Unemployment is good, because it reduces the labor supply, making it easier for them to control.

Who would decide whether a given hiring decision was unfair “punishment” of a labor union?  Why, the government, of course.  The only thing preventing them from ruling in favor of the unions, which donate so much time and money to favored politicians, would be the danger of driving corporations overseas to escape their grasp.  Corporations would therefore have an incentive to make that threat as plausible as possible. 

Do you see where this is going?  If not, you’ll have plenty of time to think about it, once you’re unemployed.