Teenagers in the 1960s listened to Beatles records backwards in search of hidden meanings—a trick akin to the task of deciphering President Obama’s statements on the battle between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board. Since the NLRB sued the airplane company in April to prevent it from building a new plant in South Carolina, Mr. Obama’s position has alternated between silent and incomprehensible.
At a press conference in June, the mellifluous one said he felt that “as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate.” In case anyone mistook that as a full-throated defense of a business’s right to expand its operations and hire workers in any state it likes, Mr. Obama also emphasized that the NLRB is an “independent” agency and that the issue is being decided by a judge.
Finally on Tuesday, we got the straight story. In a formal statement of Administration policy, the White House opposed a bill sponsored by South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott that would reduce the power of the NLRB and prohibit it “from ordering any employer to relocate, shut down, or transfer employment under any circumstance.” Translation: Mr. Obama intends to guard the NLRB for his union allies, but if no one notices, all the better.
In opposing the bill, the White House says “The [National Labor Relations Act] does not restrict the location of company operations, provided companies comply with the law.” But companies don’t live in this land of hypotheticals. The NLRB lawsuit is an explicit attempt to block Boeing from opening its new South Carolina factory, and either the Administration believes the NLRB is appropriately enforcing the law, or it believes the NLRB has exceeded its mandate and needs to be reined in. Now we know it’s on the side of the NLRB, which is run by Mr. Obama’s appointees.
As politics, the NLRB issue is a doozy for Democrats, who know that few voters will countenance a policy of punishing business for building plants and creating jobs in their states. In Virginia, Republican George Allen has been pressing the question with Tim Kaine, his opponent for an open Senate seat next year. If Mr. Scott’s bill passes the House, Senate Democrats running for re-election will also be on the spot.
The NLRB’s campaign against Boeing has captured political attention—and created business anxiety—because it is a government attempt to restrict the free movement of capital. It attempts to punish workers merely because their states passed right-to-work laws.
This strikes millions of people as contrary to the kind of freedom that America was founded on. The Administration has thrown its lot squarely with the unions, and full marks to Mr. Scott for forcing Mr. Obama finally to declare himself.