Graham, DeMint, Alexander propose law to protect right to work states

By Matt Tomsic
mtomsic@scbiznews.com

Published May 4, 2011

Responding to the National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint from South Carolina and Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, are introducing a bill today to protect right-to-work states from federal interference.

“The ‘Right to Work Protection Act,’ I think, is a very solid piece of legislation that is going to serve the country as a whole,” Graham said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I do appreciate this legislation because it would preserve the ability of a state to go down that road without suffering at the federal level.”

Graham said the act will prohibit the federal government from punishing right-to-work states through contract awards or federal action.

“The concept of right to work is really at stake here,” Graham said.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed a charge against Boeing in 2010 for opening a second assembly line for its 787s in North Charleston instead of Puget Sound, the location of the company’s first final assembly line for the Dreamliners and the location of a surge line that will be used to build 787s until the North Charleston plant is completed.

The NLRB began investigating and filed a complaint against the aerospace company in April. The expansion to North Charleston was an illegal transfer of work to a nonunion facility, according to the complaint, which called for Boeing to open another line in Washington state but did not ask for the North Charleston plant to be abandoned.

Boeing already owns and operates two existing facilities in North Charleston that build and integrate sections of the 787.

Graham said the complaint is “legally absurd,” saying Boeing came to the Lowcountry because it was the best business deal for the company.

“This complaint is just frivolous,” Graham said. “It is motivated by all the wrong reasons.”

Graham also said President Barack Obama chose William Daley — a former Boeing board member who voted for the expansion to South Carolina — as his chief of staff in January.

“I’m assuming that the vetting team knew that the complaint had been filed by the Machinists union in March of 2010, and that Mr. Daley voted along with the rest of the members of the board to come to South Carolina,” Graham said. “And they must have concluded that this complaint was frivolous. I assume that, because if they didn’t know about the complaint, that was one of the worst vetting jobs in the history of the world.”

“It is important for us here in the Senate as well as everyone around the country to understand what this administration is doing to hurt jobs in America,” DeMint said Tuesday on the floor of the Senate.

DeMint said that the national balance between organized labor and states is changing, with 22 states having passed right-to-work laws and several others passing amendments to keep union certification votes secret.

“A few weeks ago, a delegation from California went to Texas to try to figure out why hundreds of businesses are moving from California, taking tax revenue and jobs with them to Texas and other States,” DeMint said. “They didn't need to make the trip. It was pretty obvious that the business environment that has been created in California by the unions and the politicians has made it very difficult for world-class companies.”

The proposed legislation is the most recent development in the Boeing-NLRB saga after the complaint’s release, Boeing’s response and a news conference called by South Carolina politicians the next day to show support for the aircraft maker.

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