Boeing Lawsuit Ignites 'Right to Work' Debate

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A South Carolina legal battle involving airline giant Boeing has GOP lawmakers calling foul over handling of the nation's "right-to-work" laws.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit against Boeing April 20, after the company decided to manufacture a new 787 at a South Carolina plant rather than in Washington state.

The suit charges that Boeing chose South Carolina to avoid working with unions.

South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning workers aren't required to join unions as a condition of their employment. GOP lawmakers say the Obama administration is trying to end the right-to-work laws in 22 states, including South Carolina, and that the Boeing complaint is evidence of that.

Want to make your voice heard on America's right-to-work laws? Contact your state's lawmakers.

"Right-to-work states are winning the future for America's economy, yet this administration seems intent on stamping out this model of success," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said.

"Right-to-work states have more business growth, more new jobs, and faster rising incomes than forced-unionism states," he added.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., have introduced a bill with DeMint to preserve existing right-to-work laws.

Supporters point out that the Boeing 787 production brought 12,000 jobs to the South Carolina.

"This is not just about South Carolina and it's not just about making airplanes," Alexander said. "This is about jobs in every state in the country, and whether or not manufacturers are going to be able to make in the United States what they sell in the United States."

"I can't think of one single action the federal government would take that would make it harder to create new jobs in Tennessee than this Boeing complaint if it's allowed to move forward," he added.

The Job Protection Act would:

  • Clarify that the National Labor Relations Board cannot order an employer to relocate jobs from one location to another.
  • Guarantee an employer the right to decide where to do business.
  • Protect an employer's free speech regarding the costs associated with having a unionized workforce without fear that information would be used against them in an anti-union claim.

Pro-business groups agree the NLRB charges are outrageous.

"The fact that an un-elected body has made a decision against a company the size of Boeing... If they can do it to Boeing, what else can they do it to?" questioned Brett McMahon, spokesman of the group "Halt the Assault." "I mean they'll run roughshod over my little retail shop."

Analyst say Boeing could face a years-long battle over the NLRB complaint. The company called the lawsuit "frivolous" and vowed to fight the case.

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