A big week for labor?
posted at 10:05 am on December 1, 2011 by Jazz Shaw
Three items of note are rolled into one in terms of labor news this week, and while some – particularly among union leadership – may be cheering, it’s far from a good day for workers. The first item up is that there is a tentative deal in place between Boeing and the machinists unions over the future production of Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft. While it still requires ratification, it seems that the union will receive a variety of new benefits and keep a lot of jobs at the Renton, Wash. plant while Boeing still gets to go into production for some components in South Carolina.
Under the proposal, Machinists would get a 2 percent wage increase each year of the contract. They’d also get a new performance-based incentive program, their pensions would be preserved along with retirees’ medical benefits, and they’d get a $5,000 ratification bonus.
So even given all of the meddling by the NLRB and debates over the freedom of the company to do business where it makes the most sense, this must be good news, right? Not so fast.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said a deal that would result in NLRB dropping the grievance “would certainly be welcome,” but he was wary of the NLRB’s role in the Washington negotiations.
“If the NLRB is becoming an extension of negotiation, and they’ve become a tool or device to be used by unions to make business do what they would like, that’s a disastrous outcome,” he told POLITICO. “It would be terrible if the NLRB has become a hammer in negotiating.”
If the end result is jobs in both locations and Boeing being able to produce and sell their product, that’s nothing to sneeze at. But at the same time, one has to wonder how much work will be going to South Carolina now and how much would have been going there had the NLRB not been applying strong-arm tactics against private industry all this time.
At the same time, one of the chief culprits in the NLRB’s attacks on labor, their general counsel Lafe Solomon, is getting himself a new job. What will he be doing next? He will become, in effect, President Obama’s new “jobs czar.” (Given that he’s currently suing four states on behalf of the board, the gallows humor in this should be obvious.)
Lafe Solomon is one of the most powerful bureaucrats in America and is about to get much more powerful. He is the acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), best known for suing Boeing Co. over the opening of a billion-dollar manufacturing plant that created thousands of jobs in South Carolina. He also is suing four states – Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah – for enacting state constitutional protections for secret ballot voting. He is about to inherit broad powers intended to be exercised by the NLRB itself, effectively making him President Obama’s newest czar. Perhaps he’ll be called the “no new jobs czar.”
At nearly the same time, the NLRB managed to pass their sneak attack union authorization rule on a party line 2-1 vote. While this was expected – if depressing – Republican leadership in the House fired back by approving the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. (H.R. 3094) Should they manage to get this all the way through and on the books – sadly unlikely with Obama holding the pen – the measure would begin clamping down on the NLRB and promoting a business climate more conducive to job creation. Eric Cantor released the following statement.
“I am focused on repealing the regulations that are hindering economic growth and preventing businesses from creating jobs. The passage of this bill will improve the environment for job creation by preventing the Obama Administration’s activist National Labor Relations Board from enacting regulations that would increase costs on businesses and make it harder for them to grow. I thank Chairman Kline for sponsoring this legislation to keep long-standing protections in place for our workforce.”
That’s a lot of news to cover in one roundup, but take the time read through the links and to absorb it. Don’t be fooled by any of the optimistic headlines running around. Aside from the passage of H.R. 3094 (which is never going to become law) this has been a very bad week for business, for workers, and our prospects for improved job creation. And it’s been a very good week for labor union bosses and the NLRB.