With an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, South Carolina is in dire economic straits, and therefore in desperate need of the 1,000 jobs created by the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston.
Unfortunately, in April the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board decided that Boeing’s decision to open the Charleston plant was an unlawful retaliation against the company’s unionized workforce in Washington State.
Boeing’s decision to relocate some Dreamliner production (the Washington facility will remain open) was driven by the Washington machinists unions’ propensity to strike, a propensity that has cost Boeing a fortune — one 39-day strike in 2008 cost the company an estimated $2 billion.
As Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told the Seattle Times, “We can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years. And we can’t afford to continue the rate of escalation of wages.” South Carolina, one of the 22 right-to-work states forbidding compulsory unionization of its work-force, therefore looked to Boeing like a prudent insurance policy.
The Palmetto State lobbied hard to be home for the new plant, offering the company $170 million in grants for startup costs and tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks, a bargain to the state officials counting on the thousands of jobs the plant would have brought in the coming years.
Now those jobs are in jeopardy. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has announced it will provide gratis legal counsel to three South Carolina Boeing employees whose livelihoods are threatened by the NLRB intervention.
In his first State of the Union address in January 2010, President Barack Obama promised his first order of business would be jobs, jobs, jobs. But the only jobs Obama seems interested in protecting are union jobs. The NLRB Boeing ruling is pure government protectionism for the Washington unions at the expense of the liberty of a private company and the economic well-being of South Carolina.
The precedent that is being set by the NLRB is clear: The government is arbiter of where and how we can do business.
Matt Patterson is senior editor at the Capital Research Center.