South Carolina Dials Up Pressure Over Boeing Plant

By: - May 11, 2011 12:00 am

A decision by Boeing Co. to construct a billion production facility in South Carolina — rather than in Washington State, where the company is based — has run into opposition from the National Labor Relations Board, which claims the move was motivated by the firm’s desire not to deal with labor unions. Washington has a unionized aerospace workforce and South Carolina does not, and the NLRB is pursuing an order to keep the production line in the Pacific Northwest.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, however, is pushing back hard. Haley, a Republican, was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday (May 10), pressuring the Obama administration over the NLRB’s findings against Boeing and characterizing them as a serious blow to free enterprise in the United States. Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, as well as the state attorney general, joined Haley.

This is an issue that may have started in South Carolina, but we want to make sure it never touches another state,” Haley said in an appearance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to CNN . “We are demanding that the president respond to what the NLRB has done. This goes against everything we know our American economy to be.”

The White House so far has stayed away from the dispute, saying the NLRB is an independent agency that pursues its own investigations. But the board is staffed with Democratic appointees, as CNN notes, and the dispute over the Boeing plant is quickly becoming a larger partisan battle over labor unions.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, accused Republicans of stretching the Boeing matter into a national debate over state labor laws. “That’s just factually incorrect, Harkin said, according to The Associated Press . “There is absolutely no way that the outcome of this case could affect in any way the laws of any state.

Boeing, meanwhile, defended its decision to relocate to South Carolina in an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal .

“ We hold no animus toward union members, and we have never sought to threaten or punish them for exercising their rights, as the NLRB claims,” Boeing CEO Jim McNerney wrote. “To the contrary, union members are part of our company’s fabric and key to our success. About 40% of our 155,000 U.S. employees are represented by unions — a ratio unchanged since 2003. Nor are we making a mass exodus to right-to-work states that forbid compulsory union membership. We have a sizable presence in 34 states; half are unionized and half are right-to-work.

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