Yesterday my every-couple-of-months-ly packet of material from Michigan's Mackinac Center arrived in the mail. As usual, I looked through it and kept only a little (I'm manic about throwing out papers). Among the others I found this gem, of which I'd been previously unaware: The NLRB is filing a complaint seeking to stop Boeing from opening a second production line in the state of South Carolina instead of Washington State. Boeing has had a lot of trouble with strikes in Washington State, and it seems probable (gasp!) that its decision in this case is motivated by a desire to get some work done using the second production line without more union trouble. The plant in SC would be non-union. The NLRB wants to force Boeing to set up the line in Washington State instead.
This is wrong. This is unjust. This is one of the things that is wrong with the world. The arrogance and the totalitarian impulse here should anger any right-minded individual. What the NLRB is saying is that even if a company is willing to go to the trouble of starting an entirely new plant that is non-union (Boeing is not closing the Washington State plant, if that mattered), it is to be punished for doing so. You. must. submit. You must submit to strikes. You must submit to union demands. You will not be allowed to go away. You will not be allowed to accomplish your business elsewhere. You, the evil business owner, are a slave. Your impulse to get out from under the conditions dictated by the union is itself wrong and greedy, and it will be punished.
The New York Times article cites an interview in which a representative for Boeing actually said, "[W]e cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years." How dare they! A representative for the NLRB has literally called this "an unlawful motive."
Frankly, this story just makes me look back at every discussion I have ever had with any "buy American" tariff advocate and ask: Do the fulminations against companies that have the gall to set up shop in other countries reflect the same disgusting totalitarian attitude that the NLRB is displaying here?
To be sure, there are differences--America vs. other countries as opposed to Washington vs. South Carolina. And that makes a difference, too, to worker treatment. One has to be a real ideologue to think that the Boeing workers in South Carolina will be sweatshop slaves just because they happen to be non-union. This is all true. But my antennae have always gone up at mouth-foaming hatred against companies that have the nerve to try to get any sort of better production conditions, to pay their workers anything different in salary and benefits from some hypothetical scale (which is often in practice union scale) set in the minds of their America-first critics, and to get away from the clutches of the NLRB. Never is there any suggestion of a carrot: "We'll give you a break in labor relations if you keep your plants in America and can prove that x percent of your employees are American citizens." No, it's all supposed to be stick, and it's all supposed to be stick because companies who even wish to spend their money to set up shop elsewhere must be evil and greedy. How do we know? Why, because they wish to set up shop elsewhere! They want to run away. We'll show them who the slaves are. It's all too similar to be ignored.
So the next time you want to start telling me that I shouldn't buy at WalMart, the next time you start talking about the greed and disloyalty of multinationals, you'll pardon me if I point you to the case of the NLRB, Boeing, and South Carolina and ask you, "What is your opinion on that?" And if you hem and haw (or worse), I'll know what this is all about. And I'll be much less inclined to listen to anything else you say about the greed of companies who don't run their operations on American soil.