WASHINGTON -- House Republicans introduced a bill Tuesday afternoon aimed directly at scuttling a controversial complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against The Boeing Company. Called the Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, the bill would prohibit the labor board from ordering any company to "close, relocate, or transfer employment under any circumstance," severely weakening the board's ability to enforce labor law.
The maneuver is just the latest development in an escalating spat between conservatives and the labor board, which conservatives and business groups have decried as having a pro-union tilt under President Obama.
Earlier this year, the board's general counsel, Lafe Solomon, issued a complaint alleging that Boeing broke labor law when it created a production line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. Solomon said the move was retaliation against Boeing's unionized employees in Washington state for having gone on strike in the past. If Boeing is deemed to have broken the law, it could feasibly have to move the production line to Washington.
"No government board should have the authority to tell a private employer where it can run a business,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said in a statement on the bill. “Yet as the Boeing dispute has made disturbingly clear, the National Labor Relations Board is empowered to override the business decisions of American employers."
The bill may be more theater than substance, since it would seem to conflict with the National Labor Relations Act. The act authorizes the agency to issue complaints like the one filed against Boeing. If passed, the law as introduced would effectively gut the board's remedy process when labor law has been broken.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and co-sponsored by Kline along with Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). South Carolina Republicans, in particular, were incensed over the Boeing complaint, claiming it could cost the state jobs. Unions and labor activists, however, hailed the decision as a victory for workers, as well as an indication that the board was enforcing labor law in a manner not seen in the Bush years.
In a statement, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said he was "disappointed" in the Republicans decision to push a "far-reaching" bill through the education and workforce committee so quickly without a hearing. The bill is scheduled for a vote on Thursday.
"A quick first read indicates that the Republican bill will make it easier to play American workers against each other in a race to the bottom and even easier to ship American jobs overseas," Miller said. "It would create an open season for CEOs to punish workers for exercising their rights."
The labor board, an inconspicuous agency not known to many Americans, has been assaulted by Republicans ever since the Boeing complaint was issued in April. Last month, Republicans called a special oversight hearing in South Carolina, where Solomon was largely castigated for his decision to issue the complaint against Boeing.
For the last two days, the NLRB has hosted public hearings on new rules it plans to issue that will streamline the union election process. Republicans have publicly assailed that decision as well, calling it a gift to unions.