Boeing and the union Berlin Wall

The NLRB’s action, which Boeing will challenge at a hearing next month, is a big deal. It’s the first time a federal agency has intervened to tell an American company where it can and cannot operate a plant within the U.S. It lays the foundation of a regulatory wall with one express purpose: to prevent the direct competition of right-to-work states with union-shop states. Why, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley recently asked on these pages, should Washington have any more right to these jobs than South Carolina?…

Boeing officials have admitted that their decision to build the new Dreamliner plant in South Carolina was due in part to the fact that the company could not “afford a work stoppage every three years” as had happened in Washington state over that past decade. (By the way, this is the comment the NLRB complaint cites as proof of “retaliation” against union workers.)

Boeing is merely making a business decision based on economic reality. In fact, the company chose South Carolina for the new plant even though Washington has no income tax and South Carolina does. The two of us are often accused of arguing that income tax rates are the only factors that influence where businesses and capital relocate. Taxes certainly matter. But Boeing’s move shows that taxes are not always the definitive factor in plant location decisions. In the case of Washington the advantage of its no income tax status is outweighed by its forced-union status. Lucky are the six states—Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Nevada, Florida and Wyoming—that are both right-to-work states and have no income tax.