With partisan shots, Congressional members on Friday opened the hearing over the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing’s decision to locate a Dreamliner manufacturing facility in South Carolina.
“Boeing is not above the law,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said. “We should not give preferential treatment to any one company.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said, “The NLRB has become a sycophant for labor unions.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, questioned the timing of the hearing while the lawsuit is proceeding.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said, “This decision could have a huge potential impact on economic development.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said, “It is Boeing that is pitting one state against another. It is unfortunate if the people of South Carolina would have to suffer, but Boeing would have that on its conscience.”
Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., called the complaint “baseless.”
U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, said Boeing’s decision was an act of managerial discretion.
Democrats on the committee are hammering Issa, R-California, over the appropriateness of getting testimony and questioning the acting general counsel in the midst of an ongoing court case.
“There is no record” to question Solomon on, Maloney said. angrily pressing Issa as he tried to gavel down her objection as having already been stated.
During opening questioning, Issa asked if it is legally considered discrimination if a company hires new people without affecting current employees.
“There’s no cause of action if there’s no discrimination, is that correct,” Issa pressed as Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel for the NLRB, responded. “Re-locating in a business friendly environment is not a violation, is that not correct?” Issa said. Before Solomon could fully respond, Issa brought up Solomon’s appointment by Pres. Barack Obama, an appointment still not confirmed by Congress.
“The White House had no involvement in my decision (to sue),” Solomon answered crisply. Issa gave a characteristic grin and moved on.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC complimented Boeing worker Cynthia Ramaker on her testimony before the committee, telling her she put a human face on what the hearing is all about, “denying your ability to have a job.”
Earlier, Ramaker said that if the Being plant in North Charleston were shut down as a result of the NLRB lawsuit, “thousands of people would be unemployed” and for herself, losing the job would be a catastrophe.
“I chose my right to live and work in South Carolina,” she said, adding she doesn’t think that unions should be compulsory. “I strongly believe employers should not be told by the government or the unions where to locate.”
The hearing recessed after an exchange between Scott and Solomon. Scott pressed Solomon for a definition of “transfer of assets” leading to the NLRB lawsuit, asking him to explain to a non-lawyer how building a new plant to manufacture a new aircraft and hiring new employees in both Everett, Wash. and North Charleston could be construed as a transfer of assets.
Solomon said the NLRB position is that Boeing’s decision to build the plant in North Charleston rather than Everett was a retaliation against striking union workers in Everett.
After the recess, Gov. Nikki Haley began taking questions from the panel.
Maloney quoted heated anti-union statements from Haley and asked her if employees in South Carolina could freely vote whether to join a union in a state where the governor is so anti-union.
“Every employee has the right to join a union. What you will find in South Carolina is very few employees want to,” Haley said.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, angrily challenged S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson on his assessment that Solomon's actions constituted prosecutorial misconduct.
She demanded Wilson produce the evidence of specific misconduct as acting committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-SC repeatedly gaveled her down as out of time. She demanded he cede her more time as a matter of fairness.
“I don’t need any lectures on fairness,” Gowdy said curtly.
“You’re getting one right now,” Norton told him.
After a long exchange between Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa and
Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson about whether Solomon could act independently as a counsel when he was appointed by Obama, when Wilson acts independently of Haley as attorney general, Rep. Tim Scott intervened.
He asked Wilson simply if Solomon were elected or appointed and asked if Wilson had not been elected to his job. The grin could be heard in Wilson’s voice as he responded he had.
Scott closed by asking Wilson if he believed South Carolina’s right-to-work laws helped or hurt its job-making.
The answer was a no brainer. They help, Wilson said.
Shortly after, the gavel came down, recessing the committee hearing for good.