When Boeing selected Charleston for the site of its second 787 Dreamliner production line, it created thousands of new jobs and pumped over a billion dollars worth of investment into the region. Now the Obama National Labor Relations Board is trying to undo all that to satisfy the demands of International Association of Machinists union officials, who want production moved to union-controlled facilities in Washington State.
Willfully ignorant or just outright dishonest, NLRB and IAM officials continue to insist that their actions won't cost the Palmetto State jobs, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist -- or an aerospace engineer -- to realize the truth of the matter. One plane can't be built twice, and relocating Dreamliner production to Puget Sound would leave many Charleston-area Boeing employees out of luck and out of a job.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is currently providing free legal aid to three such Boeing employees. With their jobs on the line, these independent-minded workers are attempting to intervene in the NLRB's complaint.
So why is the National Labor Relations Board so incensed about Boeing's decision to open a new production line in South Carolina? And why is the IAM so eager to keep Boeing in Washington State?
The answer is simple. South Carolina protects workers' freedom of choice.
The state's longstanding Right to Work law ensures that while workers have the right to join a union, they cannot be forced to join or pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job. Washington State, on the other hand, allows union officials to extract dues from nonunion workers as a condition of employment.
Boeing and many other companies choose to expand, build, or relocate in Right to Work states because a climate of worker freedom is simply better for business.
And companies aren't the only ones moving -- skilled workers have fled states where they can be forced to pay union dues for their Right to Work counterparts in droves, drawn by the prospects of more disposable income and better job opportunities.
In fact, a recent examination of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research demonstrated that citizens in Right to Work states enjoy higher rates of economic growth, more job openings, and more disposable income than their forced-unionism neighbors.
Despite the advantages of Right to Work laws, Big Labor isn't ready to give up on their forced-unionism model. Workers in states without Right to Work protections are routinely forced to pay union dues even if they don't belong to a union, a lucrative source of income that's just too profitable to give up. Union officials currently collect roughly $10 billion a year from workers who can be fired for refusing to pay.
To staunch the flow of workers and job providers to Right to Work states, the IAM and its allies at the NLRB hope to make an example out of Boeing.
Even if they don't ultimately prevail, the expenses Boeing will incur against this taxpayer-backed NLRB prosecution -- not to mention years of potential uncertainty while the case winds its way through the courts -- will give other employers pause before opening up shop in Right to Work states.
The message is clear: Disrupt unions' forced-dues collection racket and face the wrath of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Thousands of unemployed workers and a billion dollars in lost investment are just collateral damage.
But South Carolina and other Right to Work states have good reason to stand up against this attack on employee free choice. Right to Work protections create more jobs and leave workers with more money in their pockets.
That combination of freedom and prosperity may threaten union bosses and government bureaucrats, but for citizens in South Carolina and other Right to Work states, it's well worth fighting for.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (www.nrtw.org) and National Right to Work Committee (www.nrtwc.org).
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