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South Carolina Politicans Fight for Boeing Right-to-Work

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) __ South Carolina political leaders used words such as “frivolous,” “shameful” and “ludicrous” Thursday to describe a National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing, which is building a $750 million aircraft assembly plant in the state.

“We absolutely will not allow them to bully our businesses or mess with our employees. As governor, I absolutely will not stand for it,” vowed Republican Gov. Nikki Haley at a news conference a short distance from where Boeing is building a second assembly line for its new 787 jetliners.

The complaint filed Wednesday alleges Boeing decided to build the plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, because it was concerned about strikes by union workers in the state of Washington.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the agency’s request for a court order forcing the aerospace company to build the line in the Pacific Northwest shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“Boeing came here because it was a darn good deal for Boeing and a great deal for South Carolina,” the S.C. Republican said. “Boeing is going to stay here. They are going nowhere, just like this complaint, eventually, will go nowhere.”

Graham said he will work with other lawmakers to make sure Congress knows about what he called “this outrageous decision by the NLRB __ unelected bureaucrats that have put in motion a precedent that will destroy American businesses.”

He said the complaint is, in effect, a proposal to give unions a veto over decisions by businesses to come to right-to-work states.  An NLRB spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

An administrative judge is scheduled to hear the NLRB’s request in June but Graham says he sees no way any judge will issue an injunction blocking the opening of the new assembly plant in July. The NLRB complaint filed on Wednesday quotes public statements by Boeing executives saying they put the plant in South Carolina in part to avoid future labor disruptions. The government complaint says this amounts to discriminating based on union activity.  Most 787s are being assembled in Washington state by members of
the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“Federal labor law is clear: it’s illegal to threaten or penalize workers who engage in concerted activity,” IAM Vice President Rich Michalski said in a statement Wednesday.
Boeing has said it will fight the complaint, which it says departs from NLRB and Supreme Court precedents.   The company said in a statement this week “Boeing has every
right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region.”

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, said later he was amazed by the NLRB.

“This means inside our own government is union thugs trying to bully and intimidate,” DeMint said. “The signal they’re trying to send to any company in America is if you move to a right-to-work state, they’re going to make it painful for you.”  Haley told reporters at the news conference that “on behalf of all the 21 governors of right to work states I would respectively ask the president to get his bureaucrats off the backs of our businesses.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, a Republican who represents the South Carolina district where the plant is being built, said members of the state’s congressional delegation “will not let this stand
still. We will not let it stand at all. We will fight and we will win.”

Bobby Harrell, the Republican speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, said there was no discussion of unions with the state during negotiations with Boeing.

“Here we are today, on the verge of having this facility built and having the first airplane rolled out and they are filing a complaint that is frivolous at best and irresponsible at worst,”
he said.

“This is a shameful act. It is outrageous and extraordinarily wasteful,” added Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., the only Democrat at the news conference. “Huge sums of money will be spent on this litigation and Boeing will prevail, without any question.” He said no one in Washington lost a job because of the Boeing decision and, in fact, jobs were added in the Northwest.

“I will apologize to the employees of Boeing that you have to go through this because this is ludicrous,” said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. “When our own federal government stands in the way of economic growth and development in this country, it’s ludicrous.”

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.

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