Boeing, NLRB, and Obama's Proxy

The labor fight no one wants to be left out of.

It seems that every politician in Washington (the city, not the state) these days wants to wade into the fight between the National Labor Relations Board and Boeing over the aircraft maker's decision to build a non-union plant in South Carolina. Funny how a looming presidential election suddenly makes everyone an expert on a state-specific issue that's likely several months, if not years, from being decided. The fight stems from the NLRB's formal complaint, filed in April, which alleges that Boeing is building its new plant in South Carolina, and not in Washington state, as a way of punishing labor unions for past strikes. Such intimidating tactics, if true, would be illegal, and the NLRB is perfectly within its right to request an investigation and a hearing. But Republican lawmakers, looking to jump into anything that resembles a fight against labor unions, have decided that the NLRB's investigation warrants the kind of retribution they usually reserve for Manhattan mosque builders and Planned Parenthood executives. As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times pointed out in his column on Sunday, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Not South Carolina or Washington) and nine other Republican members of Congress have threatened to derail the appointment confirmation of NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Also Not South Carolina or Washington), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is further defining himself as an anything-but-objective overseer, publishing a report on a hearing pertaining to the complaint called "Unionization Through Regulation: The NLRB's Holding Pattern on Free Enterprise." Not exactly subtle. Even President Obama has jumped into the fray, at least by proxy: John Bryson, his new pick for Secretary of Commerce, made a lukewarm denouncement of the NLRB complaint, calling it "not the right judgment." This, like many of Obama's split-the- difference gestures, has pleased no one. Liberals are pissed that he's waffling, while conservatives continue to bleat as if the president had filed the Boeing complaint himself. Meanwhile, all this brouhaha ignores a simple fact: Not a single word of testimony has been heard in the case, which is, at its heart, merely a struggle among two states, one company, and one government agency that's doing exactly what it's been asked to do.

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