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Politics and the NLRB: the board’s move against Boeing

April 25, 2011

The political nature of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is becoming increasingly apparent. This past week the Acting General Counsel of the Board, Lafe Solomon, filed a case against Boeing, seeking to force the airplane manufacturer to move airplane production from a non-union facility in South Carolina to a union facility in Washington. The case comes on the heels of statements from Boeing executives who said that the move was a business decision designed to avoid the disruption often caused by the strikes the union has authorized at the Washington facility. In defense of filing the case, Solomon said that Boeing’s move constitutes illegal retaliation against workers who acted in accord with their Section 7 rights.

It remains to be seen if the NLRB itself will support Solomon. The five person authorized agency sits now with four members and unquestionably leans to the left. The Board is made up of three Democrats and one Republican along with the one vacancy. Experts suggest that the Board majority views its role as promoting unionization in the private sector. Board policy and case decisions that strengthen unions and help workers organize are on the horizon. We have already seen policy directives aimed at enhancing employee knowledge of their rights to band together and organize the workforce. While the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) may be dead in name, its spirit lives on at the NLRB.

The filing against Boeing has brought partisan reaction. Business leaders condemn and labor leaders offer praise. The filing is unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg for national labor policy. All businesses, union and non-union, will need to carefully monitor Board activity as it predictably revisits the decisions made in the Bush-era. And Mr. Solomon will be the architect of that effort.

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