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Public Statements

Right to Work Protection Act

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

RIGHT TO WORK PROTECTION ACT

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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I thank my colleague from South Carolina, who has been terrific in trying to bring reason to this issue. Senator DeMint has been a very strong voice for free enterprise, and that is really what this is all about.

To Senator Alexander from Tennessee, thank you for listening to what is going on in South Carolina and understanding this is not just about our State, it is about the Nation as a whole.

The Right to Work Protection Act is a very solid piece of legislation that is going to serve the country as a whole. When a State chooses to be a right-to-work State, what does that mean? That means no one can be forced to join a union. The union can ask for your vote. If you say no, that is your decision to make, and if the group says yes, you do not have to join. In a lot of States, that is not true. If 51 percent of the workforce or 60 percent of the workforce says: We are going to go union, everybody else is drafted whether they want to be or not.

So the concept of right to work is really at stake here, and I do appreciate this legislation because it would preserve the ability of the State to go down that road without suffering at the Federal level. It would prohibit Federal Government contracts, Federal Government action from punishing a State that chose to adopt right-to-work laws. That is why Senator Alexander's legislation is so important. We are not making anyone become a right-to-work State. We are saying: If you choose to do that, your Federal Government in the NLRB and other organizations of the Federal Government cannot use that against you. We are protecting that status. I think that is the balanced approach to this dilemma we face.

Now, what is this dilemma?

Boeing is one of the great companies in the world. They have a history of producing terrific airplanes. They have been located in Washington for decades. As a South Carolinian who is very happy Boeing has come to South Carolina, I want to acknowledge the Washington workforce as one of the best in the world. We hope to build great airplanes in South Carolina, but the first thing I want to do is acknowledge that my complaint or concern is not with the people of Washington, not with the workforce in Washington, it is with the actions of the NLRB and this complaint filed by the machinists union. So I hope to be in partnership with my colleagues from the State of Washington in the Senate and on the House side to pursue good policies that not only will be good for Boeing but for the country as a whole.

South Carolina is going to enjoy the status of being a teammate with the people of Washington when it comes to trying to help Boeing and manufacturing in general. But what happened is that in October of 2009, Boeing decided to create a second assembly plant in South Carolina. This is a new assembly plant because the orders for the 787 were so large, it necessitated building a second line. Boeing, under the contract with the machinists union, reserved in that contract the right to locate new business wherever they thought it would be best for Boeing. They negotiated with the people in Seattle about producing the second line in Seattle, and they went all over the country looking for other locations to create a second line.

They came to South Carolina, and I can assure you, after a lot of negotiations, the reason they chose South Carolina was because it was the best business deal for Boeing. They negotiated in Washington. They negotiated everywhere in the country, really, where they thought they could do good business, and South Carolina won out. And there is criticism back home that the package we gave Boeing was too generous. So I can assure you this was a legitimate business deal, and the idea that moving to South Carolina somehow was retaliation that violated the National Labor Relations Act section 883 is legally absurd. Under that act, a company cannot retaliate against a group of employees or a location that decides to unionize.

You would have to prove in a retaliation complaint that the people suffered. Well, in this case, not one person in Pugent Sound or in the State of Washington lost their job. Because of the additional business being generated in South Carolina, 2,000 people have been hired in the State of Washington. Not one benefit was cut from the workforce in Washington. Nobody's pay was cut. Nobody's benefits were reduced because they moved to South Carolina. So this complaint is just frivolous. It is motivated by all the wrong reasons.

Let's just for a moment assume that it is granted and this is the new business model. It would mean basically that if you decide to do work in a union plant, you are locked into that location forever; you could never move. That is crazy. That is not what the law is all about. The law prevents retaliation, and that is a specific concept in the law, and none of the factors that would lead to that conclusion exist in this case. There is new work. No one lost a job. This is a new line of business. And we are arguing about the right of a company to be able to make a business decision when it comes to new production. That is why this complaint, if it ever gets to Federal court, will fail. It is sad that Boeing may have to spend millions of dollars defending itself against what I think is a very frivolous complaint.

But let me tell my colleagues a little bit about this if they are wondering about it. Here is something I want to put on the table for you to consider. One of the members of the Boeing board at the time they chose to come to South Carolina--after a lot of negotiations in different places, including Washington and South Carolina--one of the board members who approved the second assembly line in South Carolina was Bill Daley, the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States. At the time, he was not Chief of Staff, he was a member of the Boeing board, and they voted unanimously to create a second assembly plant in the State of South Carolina. I would argue that Mr. Daley, when he cast that vote, understood it was best for Boeing to make this decision to locate new business, and he did not believe he was violating the law or retaliating against unions. One thing you can say about the Daley family, it is not in their DNA to retaliate against unions. This was in 2009.

In March 2010, the machinists union filed its complaint with the NLRB. Now, the general counsel, the person holding that title a few weeks ago, submitted the complaint to the board. But the story is even more interesting. In March of 2010, the complaint was filed by the machinists union. The vote to come to South Carolina was in October 2009. In January of 2011, Mr. Daley was chosen to be President Obama's Chief of Staff--a decision I supported and thought was a good decision for the administration and the country as a whole because Mr. Daley is a Democrat, but he is a very well respected member of the business community, someone who has a lot of skill and talent, and the President chose wisely. I would assume that in the vetting process they looked at Mr. Daley's record of involvement in business and other matters. I am assuming the vetting team knew the complaint had been filed by the machinists union in March of 2010 and that Mr. Daley voted along with the rest of the members of the board to come to South Carolina. And they must have concluded that this complaint was frivolous. I assume that because if they did not know about the complaint, that was one of the worst vetting jobs in the history of the world. And if they thought he did engage in illegal activity, it made no sense to hire him.

So, to my colleagues, I want you to consider the fact that Mr. Daley, the current Chief of Staff, voted to come to South Carolina. After he voted--a year and a half later--he was chosen to be the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States. The Boeing CEO, Jim McNerney, was chosen by President Obama to lead his Export Council to create jobs for Americans by looking at export opportunities. I would argue that President Obama would not have chosen Mr. McNerney if he thought he led an effort to

retaliate against Washington unions.

All I can say is this complaint is frivolous. It is taking time and money away from creating jobs in South Carolina and Washington. And it has national implications. To Senator Alexander, you have found the right way for the Congress to address this issue. We are not forcing anybody to be a member of a union. We are just saying, if a State such as South Carolina or Tennessee chooses to be a right-to-work State, that cannot be held against them. This legislation would say to the country and the business community as a whole: When you look at where to locate, you can consider a right-to-work State without violating the law. That is an important concept.

I can assure you, Boeing came to South Carolina because it was the best business deal. They had a lot of choices. They chose South Carolina not to retaliate but to create a second line. And here is the logic of it: Would you put everything you own in one location in today's world? So the idea that they expanded into the second plant in a different State, in a different location, makes perfect sense. The fact that South Carolina is a low-cost right-to-work State I am sure they considered. But under the law, no one in Washington lost one benefit they had. No one in Washington lost a job they already had with Boeing. The goal of this decision by Boeing is to grow their company. If we do well in South Carolina, Boeing does well in Washington.

This complaint is dangerous. This complaint is a dangerous road to go down. This complaint is politics at its worst. The law is designed to protect us, and it is being abused, in my view. Politics is about 50 plus 1. The law is something that should protect us all.

This complaint filed by the general counsel at the NLRB sets a dangerous precedent, and the Congress should speak. The administration should speak out and say this is frivolous; they are an independent agency; nobody can tell them what to do. But we have an independent duty to speak out in a constructive way.

Senator Alexander's legislation is the appropriate way to address this issue, and I wish to thank him on behalf of the people of South Carolina and the country as a whole, and I look forward to working with him to have this passed.

To my colleagues on the other side, what is going on in this complaint is dangerous for us all and not just South Carolina.

With that, I yield the floor.

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