Universal Translator

Friday, December 2, 2011

Update: Why Labor Laws Work for Everybody

I wrote a brief post back in October about the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing for illegally moving production of its 787 Dreamliner from unionized Washington state to right-to-work state South Carolina in retaliation for Boeing's workers exercising their labor rights. 

The NLRB didn’t really have much choice in the matter, given that Boeing’s CEO pretty much had publicly declared that Boeing made its relocation decision in order to punish its workers for striking – which is flat-out illegal.  But, of course, the NLRB’s lawsuit became a cause celebre for the GOP presidential candidates, who thundered against this “government interference” with private enterprise, and the Republican-led House passed a bill to take away the NLRB’s power to enforce labor laws that regulate management.  (Presumably the NLRB would still retain the power to enforce the labor laws that regulate workers.)

But yesterday Boeing and its labor unions announced that they had reached a mutually satisfactory deal resolving this dispute.  Essentially, Boeing agreed to build its 737 Max aircraft in Washington, in exchange for the union dropping its opposition to Boeing assembling some 787 Dreamliners in non-union South Carolina.  If union members ratify the deal it will “alleviate the threat of strikes” and “pave the way for a planned jump in production by the aerospace giant.”  The union would also ask that the NLRB withdraw its complaint against Boeing.

This sounds like a win/win solution to me:  the unions and Washington state get to keep jobs and work in Washington, management gets to avoid labor strikes and a costly lawsuit, and South Carolina gets a new aircraft production facility.  Hooray!  Everybody wins!  (Except, perhaps, the non-union employees in South Carolina who will get paid less than their organized counterparts in Washington but - you know what? - those workers in South Carolina should unionize.  Oh wait . . . in a right-to-work state, they pretty much can't.  Bummer.)

But it should be stressed that one of the reasons a solution like this could be hammered out – maybe even the only reason a solution like this could be hammered out – is because the National Labor Relations Board still exists and still is charged with enforcing US labor laws, which are still on the books for very good reasons.  I don’t think there should be any doubt that if the NLRB had not been around to enforce the workers’ legal rights we wouldn’t be looking at a win/win situation like the one achieved yesterday.

So, yeah . . . labor laws are good laws.  They work for the benefit of everybody, and people who continue to insist that they should all be scrapped in the name of the mythical “free market” are fools and simpletons.

No comments:

Post a Comment