WASHINGTON - Call it "The Boeing Bill." But what it really is, union leaders say, is a move to strip the National Labor Relations Board of much of its power to rule for and protect workers' rights.
Nevertheless, labor's objections didn't derail the intensely ideological GOP majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee from ramming the so-called "Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act" (HR 2587) through on a party-line vote on July 21.
GOP Committee Chairman John Kline's measure grew out of a complaint the board's general counsel, its top enforcement officer, filed against Boeing earlier this year, months after Boeing said it would start producing its 787 Dreamliner passenger plane at its new plant in the anti-union, right-to-work state of South Carolina.
The Machinists, citing public statements from Boeing officials from its CEO on down, said Boeing really sent production to South Carolina to retaliate against IAM for past exercise of its duty to represent and defend workers in the firm's aircraft production and parts plants in Washington state and Oregon.
Such open retaliation against workers for exercising their rights, including the right to strike, is illegal under labor law. The NLRB tried to mediate the dispute between Boeing and the Machinists, but when the company refused to budge, the agency reluctantly filed its complaint. The case is now before an administrative law judge.
That's not the way the ruling Republicans on the House panel see it. They want to protect Boeing's right - or any company's right - to locate whenever and wherever it wants, by taking away NLRB's power to prevent such relocation when it is motivated by attacks on workers rights. The AFL-CIO and the Machinists said the GOP bill would do far more than that.
"Retaliating against workers, like Boeing is alleged to have done, is against the law," AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel wrote lawmakers. It's also illegal, he noted, for firms "to refuse to bargain and instead, move for the purpose of denying workers union representation."
The Boeing bill would "take away NLRB's authority to restore workers to their jobs when companies eliminate work simply to eliminate workers who are pro-union," he stated. It would take away NLRB's retaliatory power to defend workers in such cases, he added. But it would also give companies free rein to pick up and move overseas and destroy U.S. jobs. "It legalizes the most-despicable form of outsourcing, by keeping the NLRB from being able to stop it," Samuel said.