Scott bill takes on NLRB: Rival says GOP plan would 'eviscerate workers' rights'

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

This morning a congressional committee is set to consider South Carolina Republican Rep. Tim Scott's plan to strip the National Labor Relations Board of some of its power and specifically "prohibit the NLRB from ordering any employer to relocate, shut down, or transfer employment under any circumstance."

The "Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act" comes in response to a lawsuit the NLRB filed in April against Boeing Co., accusing the aerospace giant of retaliating against union workers in Washington state for past strikes by building a nonunion production facility in North Charleston. The complaint asks that Boeing be ordered to operate that second 787 Dreamliner production line in Washington state, with union workers.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, calls Scott's legislation the "Eviscerate Workers' Rights and Ship Jobs Overseas" bill, and complained that Republicans are "ramming a far-reaching bill through committee in less than 48 hours without a hearing."

Scott, who is from North Charleston where the new Boeing facility is located, said Wednesday that his legislation is nonpartisan, and said anyone who sees the bill as being harmful to workers is just looking for something negative to say.

"We're excited about it," Scott said. "We think it will be voted out of committee and fast-tracked to the floor of the House."

If the Republican-dominated House were to approve the legislation, it would likely find a less receptive audience in the Democrat-majority Senate.

Some Republican lawmakers and business groups have attacked the NLRB complaint against Boeing as an intrusion into private decisions about where to locate production facilities, and an attack on so-called right-to-work states. Labor groups and some Democrats have said the NLRB is simply enforcing federal law, which bans employers from punishing workers who join unions or stage a strike.

The NLRB suit claims Boeing officials stated to employees, investors and reporters that they would build a facility outside Washington state because of a series of strikes there, most recently in 2008 and 2005.

"No government board should have the authority to tell a private employer where it can run a business" said John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, in a prepared statement. "Yet, as the Boeing dispute has made disturbingly clear, the National Labor Relations Board is empowered to override the business decisions of American employers."

He called the legislation a commonsense proposal to fix a flaw in federal labor policy.

"If the NLRB is allowed to continue down this path, not only will the economy in my home state of South Carolina be affected, but the entire national economy as well," Scott said.

South Carolina Republicans Trey Gowdy and Joe Wilson have co-sponsored the bill, along with Kline and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn.

Miller said the bill would damage workers' rights.

"A quick first read indicates that the Republican bill will make it easier to play American workers against each other in a race to the bottom and even easier to ship American jobs overseas," he said in a statement Tuesday. "It would create an open season for CEOs to punish workers for exercising their rights."

Reach David Slade at 937-5552.