COLUMBIA -- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday that governors and businesses have to work together to counter National Labor Relations Board actions against Boeing that she contends could undermine state right-to-work laws and economic growth.
"We've got to make sure that we are responding to this in a strong way," she said after a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, in her most recent attack on the federal board.
"We have to do it in a loud way and the president owes it to the state of South Carolina and every state in the country on what he's going to do in reference to what the NLRB has done against Boeing," Haley said. "While Boeing may be the first company, you know, I don't think this will be the last company."
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Republicans are stretching the NLRB"s challenge into a contest over right-to-work laws.
"That's just factually incorrect. There is absolutely no way that the outcome of this case could affect in any way the laws of any state," he said in a statement.
A lawsuit filed last month claims Boeing decided to build a new aircraft assembly line in North Charleston to retaliate for a 2008 strike at a Washington state plant. The NLRB wants the 787 assembly work returned to Washington.
Boeing's lawyer said the NLRB complaint misquotes officials and mischaracterizes the company's position.
International Association of Machinists spokesman Frank Larkin defended the board's action.
"The NLRB complaint has nothing to do with right-to-work laws, nor does it seek to have the Boeing facility in South Carolina closed," Larkin said. "The NLRB is charged with protecting federal labor law, and the board should not be bullied or pressured as part of a political campaign."
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is working with attorneys general around the nation on legal options and what he said is an issue that's much larger than right-to-work law challenges.
"It's about the right of businesses to conduct business free of government intervention," Wilson said.
Businesses in union states lose under the NLRB's challenge, Wilson argued, because they will be unable to expand in other states. "It's kind of like a roach motel," Wilson said, "they can check in but they can never check out."
Haley said she is telling governors to get involved and "be loud and vocal about it."
She also is asking governors to support federal legislation that Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rand Paul of Kentucky are backing, the "Right to Work Protection Act," which seeks to protect states' anti-union laws.
"The president owes an answer as to how he is going to allow this to happen. Because what he is doing is making best friends with every other country in the world because he's forcing jobs out of our country and stopping any industry from coming into our country," Haley said.
Also on Tuesday, DeMint, Graham, Paul and 15 other senators sent Obama a letter calling for him to withdraw his nominations of NLRB acting general counsel Lafe Solomon and board member Craig Becker, a former union lawyer.
"If not, we will vigorously oppose both nominations, vote against cloture and use all procedural tools available to defeat their confirmation in the Senate," the letter said. Cloture is the Senate action to end debate on a measure.
Harkin, chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he will hold a hearing Thursday at which Boeing's general counsel will testify. He said Republicans are seizing on a message.
"What we are really witnessing here is another example of the Republican assault on the middle class that has been echoing across the country for months now," Harkin said in his statement.
The NLRB lawsuit is not expected to delay the July opening of the 787 plant at Charleston International Airport, where Boeing plans to assemble three of its new lightweight passenger jets a month by late 2013. The company's Washington plant will make seven 787s a month.
The lawsuit is set to be reviewed by an NLRB judge on June 14 in Seattle.
The Post and Courier contributed to this report.