By Pete Kasperowicz
The House on Thursday morning approved a rule setting the terms of debate for H.R. 2587, which would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from ordering companies to close up shop or relocate employment.
The rule was passed on a 239-176, mostly party-line vote after a predictably heated debate over how much power the NLRB should have over industry decisions to move from state to state. The bill is a reaction to the NLRB's suit against Boeing for seeking to open a production line in the right-to-work state of South Carolina, which the NLRB said was an effort to retaliate against Washington state union workers.
Several members of South Carolina's Republican delegation spoke in favor of the rule and the bill, and argued that the NLRB should not be blocking the creation of jobs anywhere in the U.S., given the fragile state of the economy. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who managed debate on the rule for Republicans, said the NLRB decision is blocking 1,100 jobs in South Carolina.
"Despite what opponents will say, this is not a union issue," Scott said. "This is a classic example of government overreach, which will in the end destroy American jobs.
"The government, especially an unelected board, does not need to be involved in the business decisions of the private sector," Scott added. "In fact, it cannot be. We already live in a country where our corporate tax structure is the second highest in the world, and we cannot add another strike against us."
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) called the NLRB's suit against Boeing a "power grab," and called on Democrats to support what Republicans said is a real jobs bill.
"Let's pass this bill," Duncan said, echoing President Obama's repeated call for Republicans to accept the Democrat jobs plan. "Let's pass it right away."
Democrats argued that the bill would gut the NLRB's ability to defend worker rights in the United States, and is an attempt to undercut the authority of the NLRB in the middle of its suit against Boeing.
"The plain fact is, if a company is allowed to retaliate against its workers simply for exercising their lawful rights, every worker in every other state, including South Carolina, will lose some of their fundamental rights," said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.). "A year from now, if Boeing decides to move production from South Carolina to China to retaliate against workers who try to organize a union, the NLRB would have no power to order those jobs be kept or transferred back to the United States."
Republicans rejected this repeatedly, and said the NLRB's effort to block Boeing's operations in South Carolina are an unprecedented government overreach.
"For the National Labor Relations Board to tell Boeing that it cannot move from Washington to South Carolina, with no substantive evidence of anti-union hostility, is an unprecedented, dictatorial power grab that makes people wonder if we still live in a free country," Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said. "If a conservative majority on the NLRB told a company to not move from a basically non-union state to a heavily unionized state, those who are opposing this bill would be screaming to the high heavens."
Members were expected to begin debate on the bill itself later in the day, and hold a vote on final passage in the early afternoon.