The House on Thursday passed legislation limiting the power of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and effectively blocking its authority to tell Boeing it can’t expand its operations to South Carolina, a right-to-work state.
The measure was carried by Republicans on a mostly party-line vote of 238 to 186, with only seven Republicans voting against it and eight Democrats voting in favor of the bill.
“The NLRB has plenty of tools at its disposal to protect workers and hold employers accountable for unlawful labor practices,” said Rep. Tim Scott (R.-S.C.), the bill’s sponsor. “There is simply no reason it should have the power to tell a private business where it can establish its workplace,” Scott said.
The NLRB filed a lawsuit against Boeing in April to stop it from opening a new operation to build 787 Dreamliner jets and create 1,100 jobs in South Carolina, claiming the company was moving operations from Washington State to retaliate against union workers.
The legislation prohibits the NLRB from ordering any employer to relocate or shut down its business, and is retroactive to include the new Boeing plant.
“Big government is killing jobs under the guise of protecting workers,” Scott said. “This is not a union issue, this is a classic example of government overreach that in the end will destroy jobs.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R.-S.C.) said Republicans are “standing up to the bullying tactics on an out-of-control bureaucracy.”
Democrats largely opposed the legislation, calling it an attack on the union, and claimed the measure would destroy American jobs.
“It’s open season for CEOs to punish workers for exercising their basic rights, said Rep. Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.).
The NLRB says Boeing made the decision to expand its plant to South Carolina in part because of past strikes, including a 58-day work stoppage by the machinists’ union in 2008.
“We need to be focusing on jobs, not on this stuff,” McGovern said. “We should be trying to find ways to empower workers. This makes it easier to send jobs overseas.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.) said Boeing’s intention was to “gut unions,” and that there is “nothing radical about the NLRB.”
“This bill does nothing to create good, well-paying jobs in America,” DeLauro said. “It actually makes it easier to ship jobs overseas.”
“None of this is what our economy needs right now,” said DeLauro, adding that union membership numbers are falling.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R.-Miss.) said the intention of the legislation is to promote more job creation, but that government’s role in that endeavor is limited.
“I don’t think it’s the government’s job to create jobs, but it is to create a healthy business climate,” Palazzo said. “We like jobs. We want more of them. Not less,” Palazzo said.
Boeing declined to comment specifically on the legislation in a statement issued Thursday, but did address the ongoing government action.
“We continue to believe the issue would be best addressed by the NRLB withdrawing its complaint,” said Boeing spokesman Tim Neale.
The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled chamber. President Obama has not stated his position on the issue.
If the NLRB should succeed, Boeing says, it would be forced to shut down the $750 million plan in South Carolina, which would ultimately cost more than a thousand jobs.
The party-line vote puts Republicans and Dems on opposite sides of the workers' rights debate.