Monday, May 21 , 2018, 5:18 pm | A Few Clouds 66º

 
 
 

Tom Donohue: When the Government Picks Winners and Losers

National Labor Relations Board goes too far in its demands of Boeing

You know the nation is on a slippery slope when the government feels free to interfere in legitimate and reasonable business decisions so that it can reward politically favored groups. That’s exactly what’s happening in a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board — the most powerful government agency you may never have heard of — against Boeing.

What’s Boeing’s transgression? It decided to expand production of its new 787 Dreamliner to a new plant in South Carolina, instead of at its Puget Sound facility in Washington state. Boeing allegedly reasoned that such a move would reduce the company’s vulnerability to delivery disruptions caused by strikes at the Puget Sound plant. That prompted an official complaint from NLRB’s general counsel, who argues that Boeing’s exercise of sound business judgment is unlawful, anti-union discrimination.

What is the NLRB? The agency oversees union organizing elections and investigates unfair labor practice charges for most private-sector workers under the National Labor Relations Act. As for the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing, the company most likely will be vindicated in court. However, that could take years and huge legal fees. In the meantime, businesses seeking to invest in new facilities will have to factor in the risk that the government may choose to second-guess those decisions.

If there was ever a time when Congress needed to ensure that a regulatory body stayed true to its mission as enacted by Congress decades ago, this is it. Fortunately, a trio of senators have introduced legislation to rein in the NLRB’s latest assault on business.

The Alexander-Graham-DeMint legislation would ensure that employers can talk honestly about the costs of strikes when planning new investment. It would also reinforce the general principle that the location of where to establish production is a basic business decision that should not be lightly set aside.

So let’s recap. Boeing, one of America’s greatest companies, wants to expand production inside the United States in a favorable business environment, create thousands of new jobs and export a large share of its new airplanes to buyers overseas.

Also, just to be clear, Boeing has already sunk more than a billion dollars into its new plant in South Carolina while adding 2,000 jobs at its Puget Sound plant. And now the NLRB is telling Boeing to pack it all up and move back to Washington?

This action creates more crippling uncertainty, encourages businesses to move production facilities overseas rather than investing in the United States and doesn’t lead to one new job. Can anyone say “overreach”?

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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