By Representative Tim Griffin
On April 20, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint against the Washington state-based Boeing Corp. for its decision to expand aircraft manufacturing operations into South Carolina. Unions allege that Boeing's decision was in retaliation for their past strikes.
The NLRB's complaint alleges that Boeing violated federal labor law by building in South Carolina a production line for the manufacture of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft to supplement the line in Washington. The complaint asks a judge to stop the South Carolina production, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
It should be noted that the newly created jobs in South Carolina have not come at the expense of jobs in Washington, and, in fact, Boeing has hired an additional 2,000 workers at the Washington plant.
The NLRB has a history of pro-union bias, and this case is another example.
What does this have to do with Arkansas? In 1944, Arkansas became a "right-to-work" state, where employees cannot be forced to join a union, in order to attract new businesses and to encourage economic development. This provides Arkansas with a competitive advantage over non-right-to-work states.
The NLRB's action puts this at risk. The NLRB's complaint is an attack on our job creators and, if successful, could have a negative impact on all right-to-work states.
Arkansas tried to recruit the Boeing 787 Dreamliner plant and continues to recruit these types of manufacturing plants. Our right-to-work laws are a significant selling point to job creators, especially in contrast to states like Washington.
General aviation is a major job creator in our state with more than 9,000 Arkansans working in the aerospace and aviation industry, including approximately 4,000 in the manufacturing sector. Labor income for these workers amounts to over $200 million annually, and aerospace is Arkansas' second-largest export.
Caterpillar Inc. - like Boeing - has expanded from non-right-to-work states into Arkansas and other right-to-work-states.
In a May 11, 2011, Talk Politics interview, Gov. Mike Beebe recognized the potential negative economic consequences for Arkansas of the NLRB complaint, warning that it "could be detrimental to Arkansas' economic development efforts."
Cheryl Garner, vice president of economic development for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, also spoke out on this issue, stating that an adverse ruling in the Boeing case could take away one of Arkansas' advantages for recruiting manufacturers and other large employers to our state.
In May, my colleagues and I wrote to President Obama, asking him to intervene for the sake of job creation and economic growth, but this isn't news to the president. His nominee for Commerce secretary, John Bryson, noted his disagreement with the NLRB's complaint in his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this summer. Even one of the president's top advisers on job creation, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, expressed his disapproval of the NLRB's complaint, saying that Boeing has "a world-class, high-tech, job-creating force that's coming into South Carolina. I can't think of one reason why we'd want to slow that down."
This type of government interference discourages job creation here and might encourage companies to create jobs overseas. The NLRB is overstepping its authority, but the president refuses to become involved.
The NLRB is attempting to determine in what state a company like Boeing or Caterpillar can and can't do business. That is wrong and discourages job creation.
If the NLRB is successful in its complaint, other businesses will be less likely to expand and provide jobs in Arkansas. Even worse, America's job creators may stop considering in which state to locate and consider leaving the United States altogether.
The NLRB should withdraw its complaint immediately. In the meantime, I will do what I can in Congress to ensure that Boeing and other companies are allowed to grow business and create jobs in right-to-work-states. n
Tim Griffin represents the 2nd Congressional District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives.