The Boeing Corporation and the Right to Work

Jul 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

One of America?s premier corporations, Boeing, has built a second production plant in South Carolina (its other one is in Washington State) for its 787 Dreamliner airplane, creating over 1,000 jobs so far.  But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), created in 1935 by the Wagner Act, has taken exception to Boeing?s decision.  The reason for NLRB action is that South Carolina is a right-to-work state.  Along with 21 other states, South Carolina, as a right-to-work state, protects a worker?s right not only to join a union, but also to make the choice not to join or financially support a union.  (Washington State is not a right-to-work state.)  If the NLRB action is successful, Boeing will need to move its plant back to Washington.  As Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Defense Foundation, has correctly argued, ?this would represent an unprecedented act of intervention by the federal government that appears, on its face, un-American.?  The Wagner Act of 1935, which created the NLRB, is often called ?Labor?s Bill of Rights.?  To some extent, in the context of the Depression and FDR?s New Deal, such hyperbole is understandable.  Nonetheless, the NLRB was actually harmful for the American laborer for it did not protect the individual worker?s right to not join a union.  In many parts of the US, NLRB actions have resulted in mandatory union membership as a condition for employment.  In that sense, such regulations impinge upon the individual?s right to choose.

Mark Mix adds another dimension:  ?Even more dramatic is the contrast if we look at personal income growth.  From 2000 to 2010, real personal incomes grew by an average of 24.3 % in the 22 right-to-work states, more than double the rate for the other 28 as a group.  But the strongest indicator is the migration of young adults.  In 2009, there were 20% more 25-34-year olds in right-to-work states than in 1999.  In the compulsory union states, the increase was only 3.3%–barely one-sixth as much.?  The rationality of the free market is showing itself.

Finally, the NLRB affects only private sector workers.  However, since the 1960s, 21 states have enacted laws authorizing the collection of forced union dues from at least some state and local public employees.  Mix shows that ?more than a dozen additional states have granted union officials the monopoly power to speak for all government workers whether they consent to this or not.  Thus today, government workers are more than five times as likely to be unionized as private sector workers.  This represents a great danger for taxpayers and consumers of government services.?  The best example of this growing concern within the United States is that in 2010, an average of 59.2% of public employees in these nine worst default-risk states were unionized, 19.2 percentage points higher than the national average of 40%.  All of these states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin) except Nevada authorize compulsory union dues and fees in the public sector.

The absurdity of the Boeing case in South Carolina, which could result in Boeing being required to move its plant back to Washington (!!!), illustrates the point that American workers in all 50 states must have full freedom as workers, including the right and freedom not to associate in the area of union membership.  Fairness, equity and the true meaning of freedom are all at stake on this issue.

See Mark Mix in Imprimis (May/June 2011). PRINT PDF

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