By Fred Wszolek
The Charleston community woke up to good news on April 9, reading that the Boeing Corporation would be adding 2,000 jobs to its sprawling plant in North Charleston. That kind of news doesn’t come nearly as often as we would like, and it’s cause for genuine celebration for the region. Charleston is already on the map as a leading global tourism destination, and now it is a leading center for the aerospace industry as well.
But while celebrating this great news, it’s important to remember how close that plant came to never opening at all.
As you’ll recall, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) pushed the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) acting general counsel Lafe Solomon to file a complaint against Boeing, charging that locating their new plant in our community was an unfair labor practice.
They argued that building a new plant in a right-to-work state was a form of retaliation against the union in Washington State, punishing them for their all-too-frequent strikes.
It was an unprecedented lawsuit, and it aroused real outrage here and across the country. Never before had a federal agency issued such a complaint, and this new standard sent shockwaves through the business community.
If the bosses within the Machinists union and the NLRB had gotten their way, those 2,000 new jobs wouldn’t be on their way to Charleston — and the 6,000 workers who have jobs there today would be without work as well.
That wouldn’t have been an unintended side effect of the NLRB’s action; instead, it was the direct intention of the board to keep these jobs out of Charleston. As they say in the software business, it was a feature, not a bug.
It’s worth noting that labor heads with the Machinists are back in town trying to organize workers at the North Charleston plant. And the union is back in the news as strong financial supporters through its PAC of Democratic Congressional candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Boeing workers, and all of us in the Charleston community, should be asking the union, and Busch, some direct questions. Do union bosses still wish that the Charleston plant had never opened? Why do union bosses believe that hiring workers in our community somehow hurts workers in Washington State? Can workers really trust a union that wished they never had their jobs?
Does candidate Busch agree with the union and its leadership that it’s illegal to open a new plant in a right-to-work state? Does she agree with her union supporters that this region would have been better off if Boeing had never invested in our community? Does Busch think that our people were unworthy of these jobs because they chose not to be represented by a union?
All of the Charleston community can be proud of the success Boeing is enjoying here, and we are grateful for the company’s enormously positive impact in our community: the jobs they’ve provided our families, the investment they’ve made to our infrastructure and their generous support of our non-profit organizations. Boeing is truly an outstanding corporate citizen.
But we should never forget how the bosses at the Machinists union wanted to keep it all from happening. And we should seriously consider doing the opposite of whatever they recommend at election time.
Fred Wszolek is spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business-oriented public policy organization. He lives in Charleston.