House Passes Bill to Rein in NLRB

Sept. 15, 2011
Proposed legislation would halt federal agency from ordering Boeing to shift work from South Carolina plant.

The House of Representatives today passed a Republican-backed bill that removes the National Labor Relations Board's ability to order companies to close, relocate or transfer employment.

The Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 238-186, largely along party lines.

Reaction from the National Association of Manufacturers and others was immediate. "Today's vote is just one step in the process of reining in this rogue agency," said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons in a prepared statement. "Manufacturers thank the members of the House who voted to pass this bill today. To protect jobs the Senate must take up this legislation as soon as possible."

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C. in July, takes aim at the remedy sought by the NLRB for alleged unfair labor practices committed by the Boeing Co. The federal agency has charged the Chicago-based aerospace company with illegally transferring work on its 787 Dreamliner to a new South Carolina facility in retaliation for past union strikes at its Washington state production site.

Boeing has denied the charges, and the case is currently being heard by an NLRB administrative law judge.

The proposed legislation amends the National Labor Relations Act, adding a new limit to the NLRB's authority. It says in part, "the Board shall have no power to order an employer (or seek an order against an employer) to restore or reinstate any work, product, production line, or equipment, to rescind any relocation, transfer, subcontracting, outsourcing, or other change regarding the location, entity, or employer who shall be engaged in production or other business operations"

In short, it puts a halt to the NLRB's proposed solution to Boeing's alleged infraction. The agency has stated it wants Boeing to "return" the Dreamliner work slated for the South Carolina facility to Washington state.

Opponents of the NLRB's remedy have stated it puts some 1,000 jobs in South Carolina at risk.

Boeing has repeatedly said the decision to locate a production line in South Carolina was not a transfer of work and has resulted in no loss of jobs among its Washington employees.

Harsh Words and Heated Debate

"The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act sets clear limitations on the NLRB's powers that have been used in ways Congress never intended," said Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a prepared statement following the House vote.

Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has been vocal in his criticism of NLRB actions as they relate to Boeing, citing concerns that the agency has become a "rogue" agency following what he said was a failure to fully comply with a Congressional subpoena.

Issa has been demanding the NLRB turn over documents related to its decision to file suit against Boeing.

Harsh words also were exchanged in debate before today's House vote.

Several opponents of the measure, including Robert Andrews, D-N.J., labeled it an "outsourcers bill of rights" and said it granted business unlimited freedom to move work overseas without repercussions, thereby hurting U.S. jobs.

Rep. Scott, the bill's sponsor, said the NLRB had plenty of tools at its disposal to address illegal labor practices and did not need the ability to "tell businesses where to locate."

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., added that it was "not good legislative policy to legislate on individual cases."

Disputing the Democrats, Republican supporters of the measure said it supports job creation.

For example, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., said, "This administration has used its labor board to make it harder to do business in America. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its recent unfair labor practice complaint against Boeing."

In addition to NAM, business groups supporting the proposed legislation include the National Federation of Independent Business and the Business Roundtable.

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