President Obama was asked today about the decision by the National Labor Relations Board with respect to Boeing, and you can see his answer in the video. He said that the NLRB is an independent agency and that there’s a pending judicial matter. “So I don’t want to get into the details of the case. I don’t know all the facts. That’s going to be for a judge to decide.”
However, he then spoke broadly about the fact that corporations need to have the “freedom to relocate,” although they have to follow the law, and that if that relocation occurs in the United States, “that’s a good thing.” He concludes that labor and management shouldn’t fight and should “come to a sensible agreement” before it results in shutting down a plant.
I’ll take the President at his word that he doesn’t know all the facts. Specifically, he must not know the fact that Boeing admitted flat-out that they made the decision to relocate from Washington state to South Carolina, a right-to-work state, because they wanted to avoid unionization. This violates the NLRA explicitly, and the NLRB had to act.
Now, the President may be making a further argument that any American job is a good job, and there’s no value in a union job vis-a-vis a nonunion job at the same company. Freedom of relocation, then, matters more than unionization. That’s at variance with everything we know about the effect of unionization on wages and prosperity, but that could be his opinion. It appears to be the opinion of his hand-picked Commerce Secretary:
But the issue became more awkward for Obama when John Bryson, his pick to head the Commerce Department and a former Boeing board member, openly criticized the lawsuit during a Senate confirmation hearing last week.
“I think it’s not the right judgment,” Bryson said. He said Boeing officials thought they were “doing the right thing for the country” by keeping jobs in the U.S. and not moving them overseas.
Bryson further added that his focus will be on jobs and that “businesses in our country are too often stifled by absolutely unnecessary, cumbersome regulation.”
Now, to be fair, President Obama also chose the majority of the NLRB – even recess-appointed them – who came to this decision. And there’s that little caveat about businesses not “breaking the law” when they exercise their freedom to relocate. But to put it in such simple terms, on such business-friendly turf, neglects the issue. Corporations have been insistently engaging in widespread union busting, which has a material effect on worker’s wages and their rights. You can make a he said/she said determination out of all of that, but it’s not a factual claim.
I’ll add that Barack Obama is not the only elected Democrat who shows no respect for labor or understanding of their plight. Jerry Brown last night vetoed a farmworker card check bill that would have enhanced protections for some of the most vulnerable employees in our society. Brown got huge support last year from the farm workers’ union and from Latinos in California. The lack of respect from Democrats for some of their primary funding and ground game sources is really staggering.
UPDATE: Business groups are asking GOP Presidential candidates to “turn up the heat” on the NLRB. I think the Administration has that covered.