Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

S.C. Workers Say Boeing Should Not Break Law to Move Jobs There

June 22nd, 2011 | James Parks

Image: James ParksIn advance of a politically motivated hearing, South Carolina working men and women called today on lawmakers to focus on creating good jobs instead of mounting a political three-ring circus in defense of Boeing lobbyists and CEOs.

The workers spoke prior to a field hearing in North Charleston, S.C., organized by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and attended by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and several Republican members of Congress.

In April, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint alleging that Boeing’s 2009 decision to locate a Dreamliner 787 final assembly line in North Charleston represented illegal retaliation against Machinists (IAM) members who work for the company. The NLRB is seeking a court order requiring Boeing to operate the second 787 line, including supply lines, with union workers in the Puget Sound. To learn more and check out the real deal on the NLRB and Boeing, click here and here.

In a statement, Machinists (IAM) Vice President Bob Martinez said:

Based on clear-cut evidence of law breaking by Boeing that’s available on YouTube, federal law enforcers had no choice but to move forward with an investigation. Today’s hearing is about GOP opposition to the very existence of a federal agency that enforces labor law.

Workers emphasized that South Carolinians support Boeing bringing jobs to the Palmetto state but said the corporation should not break the law to do it. “We have heard a lot of talk recently about what is right for South Carolinians from lawmakers, both here in our state and in Washington D.C.,” said Joe Shelley, a mill worker at the Kapstone paper mill in Charleston.

Well, I am here today, as a South Carolinian, to share my opinion about what we need to create good jobs and a stronger economy and it isn’t the political grandstanding you see here today.

Georgette Carr, a Charleston long shore worker said:

South Carolinians want good jobs, including the jobs Boeing has to offer, but employers who break the law, as Boeing is doing in Washington State, need to be held accountable and must respect workers’ rights.

The South Carolina workers emphasized that today’s hearing is part of a broader political assault on working families taking place nationwide. James Johnson, a recently laid off construction worker from Summerville, said:

This is just another example of the extreme political agenda being pushed by politicians around the country to reward corporate CEOs and lobbyists who are rigging the system– not working families. We have seen it in Wisconsin and Ohio, with the attacks on public service workers, in Washington, D.C., with the GOP budget plan to gut Medicare, and now right here in our backyard.

“The right-wing attacks on the NLRB have nothing to do with the facts of the case or the economy, and everything to do with politics,” said Erin McKee, Charleston Labor Council president.  “Working people play by the rules, and so should businesses.”

Yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, called on  Issa to delay his demand that the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon testify at today’s hearing about the Boeing case, which is currently being argued before an administrative law judge. Top Republicans on both the committees also have requested that Solomon turn over sensitive internal documents relating to the ongoing case.

Check back for coverage of the hearing today.

This article originally appeared on the AFL-CIO blog on June 17, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

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