By Representative James Scott
President Obama was to head to Detroit on Monday to celebrate Labor Day in what used to be one of our nation's industrial powerhouses. Now, the city has been reduced to a sad shadow of its former self.
This, even as states like Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina -- and, more importantly, countries like Mexico -- which have less-onerous labor laws, have enjoyed increased auto manufacturing investment and the high-paying jobs the industry creates.
Just as Detroit was once synonymous with cars, Akron, Ohio, used to be the tire capital of the world and steel was a much larger part of Pittsburgh, Pa., than just its football team.
Unfortunately, many of these other industries have been forced to move overseas rather than over state lines. Now, Firestone is owned by the Japanese Bridgestone Corp., steel is largely imported and Milwaukee power tools are manufactured in Asia.
In fact, when was the last time you bought a power tool made in America?
There is a common denominator in the fall of these cities and the industries they used to represent: dominant labor unions backed by the National Labor Relations Board and its one-sided interpretations of U.S. labor law. The NLRB has handed down decisions for years that have driven up costs of production in America and forced companies to move jobs overseas to compete in a global economy.
The NLRB's punishment of Boeing for the company's decision to open a second manufacturing facility and create jobs in South Carolina is well-known. But the episode is far from the first example of the NLRB overstepping its regulatory reach. The board's history is steeped in costly decisions that have been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court after costing taxpayers and U.S. companies millions.
For example, in the 1939 case NLRB v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp., the Supreme Court overturned the NLRB's ruling that employers could not fire workers who stopped production by staging sit-down strikes (leaving employers and their customers at the mercy of local labor unions).
In the 2002 case BE & K Construction Co. v. NLRB, the court reversed the NLRB's imposition of penalties on an employer for filing a lawsuit against a union attempting to organize employees (effectively an attempt to punish the employer for seeking access to the U.S. court system).
There is a simple reason why the Supreme Court has been forced to overturn these and many other NLRB decisions: the NLRB is biased against job creators by design.
When it reviews a case, it controls the investigators, the prosecutor and the judges. All these participants have a political agenda. This is a rigged system suitable for a show trial in a Third World country.
While every other person, business, civic club and homeowner's association in America must use the impartial U.S. courts to resolve their disputes, the labor unions get their own extrajudicial forum where the deck is stacked in their favor.
The result has been the development of onerous labor law that essentially forces manufacturers overseas.
One has to wonder if Honda's recent decision to build a new plant in Mexico was driven by the organized labor complaints they faced when they built a new facility in Ohio in 2007. Did the uncertain labor environment caused by the president's NLRB appointees cause Honda to look elsewhere to build cars?
We will never know how many jobs the NLRB's biased rulings have cost Americans. But we do know that a major manufacturer deemed Mexico, even with all its documented problems, more desirable than the U.S. for its $800 million investment. As a result, thousands of jobs will be created south of the border rather than here.
On Labor Day we can expect the president to repeat his tired and disputed tale that the taxpayer bailout of GM and Chrysler saved jobs. What he will ignore is the primary reason why the two companies failed in the first place: They had become uncompetitive after years of forced concessions to a United Auto Workers union backed by political partners like the president who use the NLRB to carry out their political agenda.
The NLRB's legacy is one of shuttered factories and vanished jobs throughout industry. Americans need those jobs. Congress needs to revisit the legislation that created the NLRB and make sure it can no longer operate as a job-killing kangaroo court. It must be forced to defend its decisions in the same place legislation passed by Congress is tested -- the federal court system. You need only to look to Detroit to see why.
* Scott represents the 8th Congressional District in south Georgia and is president of the 87-member Republican freshman class.