Labor Complaint Against Boeing Opposed by Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam is among 16 Republican governors to sign a letter to the National Labor Relations Board asking it to dismiss its complaint against aircraft maker Boeing, which plans to operate a plant in South Carolina.

Like Tennessee, South Carolina is a right-to-work state. The NLRB claims Boeing chose to establish an assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., as retaliation for past labor problems the company has experienced in the state of Washington.

The NLRB formally issued a complaint against Boeing in April.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has written to Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the NLRB, taking issue with the agency’s action. The letter was dated June 16, and Haslam is among the signers.

The letter says that although South Carolina is a right-to-work state and Washington isn’t, the aircraft maker continues to invest and create jobs in both states regardless of their different policies on labor. The letter begins by saying the best announcement a governor can make during the recovery from recession is one about new jobs.

“When a company chooses to come to a state, it does so because the state has a low cost of doing business, a trained workforce and a favorable regulatory climate,” the letter said. “If the company chooses to locate in a right-to-work state, that is an added bonus.”

Haslam has repeatedly listed the fact that Tennessee is a right-to-work state as being among the state’s top selling points in attracting new jobs. Haslam has said his top priority is to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for jobs.

The letter initiated by Haley says the NLRB has “overstepped its mandate” to protect workers and has instead chosen to protect only “the interests of organized labor.”

“This undermines the principles of free market capitalism upon which this nation is built,” the letter said. “It is clear that if the NLRB can charge Boeing and punish South Carolina, then it can do so to other companies and other states.”

The letter further states, “When we, as governors, are fighting to improve the economic interests of our states, the federal government should not stand in our way. While governors are trying to break the ties that bind free enterprises from doing business, the federal government should not tell Boeing where it can build airplanes.”

A hearing on the charge opened in Seattle on June 14 before an administrative judge.

On April 28, eight state attorneys general wrote to Solomon, calling on him to withdraw the complaint. Earlier this month, 16 attorneys general filed an amicus brief opposing the NLRB’s action. Tennessee’s attorney general, Bob Cooper, has not been among those signing onto the opposition.

Boeing selected Charleston in 2009 for an assembly line for the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

Tennessee recently found itself in a controversial jobs issue similar to one in South Carolina. Tennessee has struck a deal with Amazon.com to build two distribution centers, with the agreement that Amazon will not have to collect sales taxes in Tennessee on its transactions. The decision was made by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, and Haslam has agreed to abide by the agreement. South Carolina lawmakers balked at a similar arrangement with Amazon on collecting taxes, before reversing their decision after Amazon threatened to pull out of the state.

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