There’s been a lot of ink spilled of late over the union-controlled National Labor Relations Board’s decision to prosecute Boeing for allegedly locating its second 787 assembly plant in South Carolina in retaliation for the Machinists’ union employees engaging in past strikes.
Despite the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon’s statement that there is “nothing remarkable or unprecedented” about his prosecution of Boeing, he's basing his decision to prosecute Boeing on the logic that “[a] worker’s right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act” is a selective use of the National Labor Relations Act’s Section Seven Rights.
Solomon’s logic is also a double-edged sword that, if they so desire, Boeing’s union-free employees in South Carolina can use to try to help save their jobs.
The Law Protects Union and Union-Free Employees AlikeThe foundation of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act is ostensibly the preservation of employees’ Section Seven Rights which are as follows:
Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title]. [Emphasis added.]
While the National Labor Relations Act clearly protects employees’ rights to unionize and to engage in concerted activity (such as the right to strike), the Act also protects the rights of employees who wish to refrain from those activities—and this is where Boeing’s union-free employees in South Carolina can use the law to their advantage.
Since the NLRB first announced its decision to prosecute Boeing, it has drawn the ire from many in the business community, as well as from politicians and other pundits. However, the one group that has not been heard from has been Boeing’s South Carolina employees whose jobs are placed in jeopardy due to the NLRB’s overreaching actions.
As noted previously, prior to Boeing’s decision to locate the second 787 assembly line to South Carolina, the North Charleston employees were unionized by the International Association of Machinist—the same union that filed the charges against Boeing—until they chose to exercise their legal right to decertify the union.
If Boeing’s South Carolina employees were still under the same union as Boeing’s Puget Sound employees, it is arguable whether or not the Machinists would have filed charges against Boeing, since the work would still be in the hands of members of the same union.
Further, if the employees were still unionized and the union did file charges against Boeing, then the South Carolina employees would have grounds to file charges against their union.
However, since the employees chose to kick the union out, the union obviously felt it was free to file charges against Boeing for its alleged discrimination against the union’s strike activities in Puget Sound.
The NLRB & Union’s Catch-22
This raises some very important questions that may help the South Carolina employees fight to keep their jobs:
If the work had gone to any of Boeing’s already union-represented facilities, would the Machinists’ union have filed charges against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against the union? Probably not.
What then of the employees in South Carolina?
Were they not exercising their legal rights to refrain from union activity by decertifying the Machinists?
If the union’s failure to keep the Boeing workers unionized in South Carolina gave them the impetus to pursue charges against Boeing when South Carolina was awarded the work, was not the filing of the charge against Boeing retaliating against the South Carolina workers for choosing to become union-free?
If, in fact, the Machinists’ union would have stayed in South Carolina and no charge would have been filed against Boeing (since the employees would have belonged to the same union) for the placement of the work there, there can be no justification for the Machinists’ filing of the charge and, therefore, the filing of the charge is based on retaliatory reasons—employees choosing to decertify the union.
Is not the South Carolina employees’ Section Seven rights to choose to refrain from a union as sacrosanct as the Puget Sound union’s right to strike?
If the charge was filed for retaliatory reasons, then the NLRB is also complicit in furthering an unlawful objective on behalf of the union and the South Carolina employees should file charges against both the Machinists’ union and the NLRB.
In April, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix announced that his foundation would provide Boeing’s South Carolina’s employees with free legal assistance.
“All current or prospective Boeing employees who could lose their jobs may request free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys by calling 1-800-336-3600.”
For those employees whose jobs are at stake due to the union-controlled NLRB’s actions, it would be worth the call.