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Originally published Monday, June 13, 2011 at 3:55 PM

NLRB complaint against Boeing needs critical look

A National Labor Relations Board judge is in Seattle Tuesday for hearing about Boeing setting up a 787 line in South Carolina. The judge should understand how damaging and wrong it would be to force Boeing to relocate that work back to Puget Sound.

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PRESIDENT Obama has been talking for two and a half years about creating jobs, particularly family-wage manufacturing jobs. Really a president does not create manufacturing jobs. He creates policies that may encourage companies to create jobs — companies like Boeing, which has now had the creation of 1,000 jobs in South Carolina second-guessed by Obama's National Labor Relations Board.

An NLRB judge is in Seattle Tuesday for a hearing on this matter. We hope the judge looks critically at the complaint filed by the board's general counsel.

In its complaint, the NLRB is attempting to reverse a U.S. investment by the nation's No. 1 exporter 17 months after the company decided to make it — after the money has been spent, after the equipment is set up and after 1,000 workers have been hired. In South Carolina, assembly of the first 787 is scheduled to begin this summer. For the government to demand now that the company move everything to another state shows no sense of practical reality.

The "other state" is, of course, our own. This newspaper favored the company building the second 787 line here. We want Boeing to build its next commercial jetliner here and all its commercial jetliners here. But that is Boeing's decision to make, not the government's.

The NLRB's complaint takes the weird position that Boeing has a right to put a plant in South Carolina if it keeps its mouth shut, but that if it complains about the history of strikes in Washington, it is being "punitive" and is breaking the law.

But recall what the company was doing in the fall of 2008. It was offering to put the second 787 line here if Aerospace Machinists would agree to a 10-year no-strike contract. Boeing did not have to make that offer, but it did. The union did not agree to it, and that was its right; but there is nothing illegal in Boeing making it. Under the NLRB's complaint, however, the company would have been better off deciding for South Carolina and saying nothing.

The law the Labor Board says Boeing violated, Section 8 (a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act, is about protecting union activists from being penalized. It is not about protecting an entire union local from the economic consequences of what it does.

We are for jobs, and for the investment that creates them. But companies cannot be dragged to Washington and forced to invest here. They have to want to invest here.


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