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Boeing, South Carolina, IAM union and 160,000 Jobs
By John Disque

Boeing's new $1 billion plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

john disqueHappening in America today is perhaps the biggest business controversy of the century.

Naturally, the controversy involves unions but this time we're talking about 160,000 American jobs that may eventually decide to move to Mexico. Lamar Alexander is suggesting that this 160k figure is just the tip of the iceberg and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest US employers (the automakers) may soon follow suit.

First I will attempt to make a long story short. Then I will fill you in on the details of the issue.

Boeing (the world's largest aerospace company and the #1 US exporter,
employing 160,000 U.S. residents) has built a brand new
$1 billion plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

One side (the union) is claiming that Boeing hates their union so they've decided to move to a nonunion state to punish them. Their home base now is Washington state.

Another side is claiming that the word "moving" is being misused and that the company is merely expanding to South Carolina, creating thousands of jobs in the state.

Another side is saying … If the unions follow Boeing to South Carolina and win their lawsuit against Boeing they will simply move to Mexico and it won't be long before other US companies do the same.

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is the union involved with Boeing. IAM is perhaps the most powerful union in the country and that kind of power doesn't easily, or often, lay down. This past April they filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a government agency, claiming that Boeing is out to bust unions while playing "pay-back." It didn't stop the plant from moving along on schedule and, on June 10, 2011, the new plant celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

June 14th marked the official start of NLRB's trial against Boeing with all accounts pointing to a long, heated, and costly legal battle.

It's no "lil-wee-wee war." We are speaking about an awful lot of American jobs and enough power and income base to collapse the entire country.

Oh, what a tangled web. When I first received a press release concerning this situation I had no idea I was going to be digging for days into red-faced documents, allegations, misery, hatred, lawsuits, over-reactions and confusion.

It's the ancient issue. Many Americans can point to the good ole' boy network dilemma, but this isn't quite the case. Unions were a great idea at their inception, but have they managed to destroy this country by chasing companies and jobs to foreign countries where unions simply don't exist.

US Senator Lamar Alexander (TN –R) has been the biggest voice against the unions and for expansion to SC. One would quickly question why Alexander would even be involved, but he discusses the issue in the realm of all American companies and jobs and loves to use Tennessee as his prime example. Alexander proudly says that Nissan, GM, Volkswagen and thousands of suppliers chose to expand to TN because of the state's right to work law.

There are 22 states with the Right To Work Law and SC is certainly nonunion. The right-to-work laws basically state that you shouldn't have to join a union to find employment but, again, the issue is more complicated than it first appears. The law does not make it impossible for a union to exist in the state. It simply gives the employee the option to join and be represented-by or not join the union.

Two months ago (in May) Alexander introduced the Job Protection Act (S. 964). The bill preserves the existing protections of the "Right To Work" laws and would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the unions to file against a company if they move to or expand to a non-union state.

Alexander has been a long time advocate for right to work laws and co-wrote a book The Job Protection Act. He is stating that the Democrat Senate and Obama is making it difficult but does not elaborate. Then he adds that the right to work laws that came to being in 1947 have been the base of keeping jobs in America. "A 'right to work law' in ALL states would make it possible for manufacturers to expand here, employ here, work here, and to sell what they make here."

The utmost concern is: No company is going to move to TN or any state with a right to work law if they have to fight union lawsuits, government red tape and heated controversy. If Boeing should lose this new lawsuit, the companies would have adequate proof that a move or expansion is not possible.

"Boeing sells planes everywhere in the world," states Alexander. "They can make planes everywhere in the world. They have 160,000 employees in the U.S. We want them to stay here. We don't want them to move to Mexico, or Europe or Southeast Asia because they can't operate in a competitive environment in the U.S. Boeing is in the business of exporting airplanes, not exporting jobs."

In an apparent attempt to negotiate the NLRB has stepped up and suggested "OK – if you build 10 planes in Washington – you can build 3 in South Carolina." Alexander says, "That sounds like China, not the U.S."

Alexander also suggests that if your manufacturing business is in a state that does not have a right to work law you'd better think twice before moving or expanding to a state that does have a right to work law. Once they (the union) come after you, your only move left is to Mexico.

In a somewhat strange confession by Jim Albaugh (head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes) Boeing stated to the Seattle Times that unions are making it difficult to continue their momentum and that they can't have union work stoppages every three years. Apparently, this is the statement that got them in trouble and exposed Boeing's true agenda for moving to SC.

Looking at that statement from an outside perspective, you would have to wonder why the unions are stopping Boeing's production (they went on strike in 2005 and again in 2008) and why THAT isn't being addressed. It may appear to be irrelevant, but it does indeed call for a closer examination.

Part two will be written within the coming week as I become more updated on the case.

Published July 10, 2011, 11:11 p.m.

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