By Alicia Cohn
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) invoked aerospace giant Boeing in his labor policy speech Monday as an example of the type of American innovation he would encourage as president.
Romney used the opportunity to hit President Obama on his labor policies, highlighting what he called the "egregious example" of the president's failed policies in South Carolina.
Romney toured Boeing's new South Carolina plant prior to the speech, a strong indication of his commitment to stand with South Carolina in the dispute between that state and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency. The board is suing Boeing for allegedly moving the plant from Washington state in retaliation for labor strikes there.
"It's an assault on business, it's an assault on jobs, it's an assault on states that have right-to-work policies," Romney said of the NLRB suit.
On Monday, Romney also named William Kilberg, the lead counsel for Boeing in the ongoing dispute, as a co-chairman of his Labor Policy Advisory Group. Kilberg will help "shape the policies I am proposing to return power from the labor bosses to the workers and businesses that can get our economy going again," Romney said in a statement.
"Boeing, when they decided where they were going to build their new expansion facility, chose South Carolina, chose America," Romney said in the speech. "The folks that are their No. 1 competitor, Airbus, chose China for their expansion. ... Boeing did the right thing. Boeing should not be punished for doing the right thing. Boeing should be celebrated and encouraged."
The issue has become important in key state South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has repeatedly called on Obama, along with the Republican presidential candidates, to state his position on the lawsuit.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race last month and endorsed Romney earlier on Monday morning, joined him for the tour of the plant, Romney said.
Surprise guest Pawlenty also joined Romney for opening remarks onstage at the North Charleston City Hall, and he is expected to join Romney as a guest at the Republican debate Monday night in Florida.
In his speech, Romney reiterated pledges made last week to support the secret ballot in order to guarantee workers the option not to unionize, and pledged that as president he would appoint "people who are experienced and unbiased" to the NLRB.
Romney's campaign released a new Web video prior to the speech titled "Obama isn't working: Labor" that highlights the story of a St. Louis business owner unhappy with labor unions, inter-cut with comments made by Obama in support of organized labor.
The emphasis on labor issues is a strong signal that Romney expects the topic to play an important role heading into the election.