Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PACNW Righty Speaks to the Court (In My Dreams Only)

Peter Schaumber, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, has said that the NLRB’s attempt to interfere with Boeing’s attempt to open another 787 Dreamliner factory in South Carolina is “unprecedented”. (See my previous post)

NLRB officials are saying Boeing’s decision to move part of the 787 production to SC is a move against unions and that is not legal. Business can make decisions that are in the best economic interest for the company.  But in the opinion of the NLRB, if a business makes a decision to move to a state that is a right-to-work state, like SC, that might be illegal. There are some e-mails from Boeing officials that give the NLRB some traction, but in the mind of Schaumber there is “no basis” for the claim that Boeing is retaliating against the unions.

Maybe since I am not a lawyer and live my life based on common sense, the sense that liberal lawyers live their lives by are hard for me to understand. I think that Boeing’s arguments should be a no brainer. I’d stand in front of the judge and say:

“Your Honor, what was put in the e-mails was true; we have discussed on occasion the impact that the unions and their strikes have had on our profits and production. But this decision was not made as retaliation against the unions, but rather as a statement the unions have on our business. We feel that unions are not good for our bottom line. The strikes in 2005 and 2008 cost the Boeing Company millions in revenue. For a company that answers to our shareholders, who are everyone from the CEO down to the pension plans of many small and medium sized businesses to most of our employees, we felt strongly that by divesting our production makes good business sense.  According to the NLRBs own rules, we can make decisions that are in the best interest of our company’s profitability. Moving one-third of the 787 production line to South Carolina allows us to somewhat mitigate the costs incurred when the unions representing the Washington State Boeing Employees decide that a strike is necessary. To allow a union to dictate when and where we place out production lines runs the risk of allowing them carte blanche to run roughshod over our business and any other business who wishes to expand. If a business wanted to expand into another state, maybe set up a regional distribution center in South Carolina, the union could step in and say ‘no way, the only reason you are going there is because of the right-to-work rules’ if this ruling is allowed to stand. One final point that I would like to make. These jobs that Bowing supplies do not belong to the government, nor do they belong to the unions. These jobs belong to Boeing and as the supplier of these jobs, we have a say in who is hired and not hired. For some, that is a difficult concept to grasp. But if the Boeing Company ceased to exist, so would the jobs. Boeing would take them away when they closed their doors.”

If the unions had the ability to interfere with the decision making process when it comes time to expand, would they also be given the ability to interfere if a business decided to shrink? What if a business decided to move production overseas where labor is cheaper? Could they also file a complaint with the NLRB, stopping this kind of move? Would they be a hindrance to expansion and growth?

As some of you might know, I build Adirondack Chairs for sale. It is not a thriving business, but I do have plans to someday make it so. But to do so would require me to hire a small team of folks to work some of the production. While I would never consider interfering with any attempt by my employees to form a union, I would most certainly look to other options if it looked like this was going to happen. I would have a serious problem paying my workers more than they were worth. Maybe I would consider moving my production to another location. If a complaint was filed against me, then I’d just shut the business down and go back to making chairs on an individual basis. I wouldn’t be making the same amount of money but I’d still be doing something I loved, and now there would be five or six and even more people now without a job. This is not meant to be some sort of threat. Building Adirondack chairs, with the exception of the owner of the shop, is not a career. And my wages, while they would be competitive, would certainly not convince anyone that building cedar chairs is a life-long profession. A union would try to establish so-called “living” wage scales and benefits for what would be essentially unskilled labor. I don’t want lifetime employees. I want employees that would come and work for me for a year or so, save their money, then move on to bigger and better things.

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