Fact and Fiction in the Boeing Complaint

Right-wing lawmakers and conservative commentators continue to promote the notion that the Boeing Company and certain southern states should not be required to observe federal labor law, and that the federal agency charged with enforcing that law should be defunded and dismantled.

What began as a straightforward and well-documented case of illegal retaliation by Boeing against its workforce has ballooned into an anti-government crusade by extremists who are trying to make the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) the next victim in the GOP’s nationwide campaign against collective bargaining rights.

“Workers have a constitutional right to free speech and freedom of association that does not vanish at the South Carolina state line, or any other state where officials are so eager to promote their anti-union views,” said IAM General Vice President Rich Michalski. “The NLRB has both the right and the responsibility to enforce federal labor law equally in all 50 states.”

Among the distortions being promoted is that the NLRB’s complaint is an attack on states with right-to-work laws. This is nonsense. The Board’s complaint has nothing to do with such laws. It seeks to remedy Boeing’s retaliation against its workers in Washington by bringing their work back to Washington. The violation of law would be the same wherever Boeing had moved that work. It has no effect on South Carolina’s or any other states’ right-to-work law whatsoever.

Another claim cited by conservative commentators is that the Federal government is trying to tell a company where to put its work. This is false. The National Labor Relations Act does not restrict the placement of work unless a company does so for an illegal reason. And no matter how much Boeing’s allies in this case may wish it were not so, retaliating against workers for engaging in lawful concerted activity is illegal.

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