Advancing a Free Society

The President Punts on Boeing

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Among the many distressing features of the recent presidential press conference was Obama’s conscious decision to distance himself from the single most important case initiative undertaken by the National Labor Relation’s Board Acting General Counsel, Lafe Solomon, to bring unfair labor act charges against Boeing for its decision to open a new plant (without any layoffs at its existing facilities) in West Charleston, South Carolina. I have already written extensively about this decision, and do not want to rehash the reasons why Solomon has ventured off into dangerous waters. Solomon himself recently testified before Congress on the matter and uttered only platitudes about the entire matter, reassuring his interlocutors that politics played no part in what is surely the most political decision to come out of his office in a long time. At no point did he bother to point to any precedent on the matter that supported his efforts. His testimony in this regard was the exact opposite of the detailed brief against the NLRB decision prepared by (full disclosure) my friend and labor expert Philip Miscimarra, which shows how far beyond established cases the decision goes.

What was striking about the President is that he did not think it appropriate to say anything about the merits of the decision at all. He just mumbled something about how the case was now before a “judge,” when he meant to say the NLRB, which of course is dominated by its Democratic members. But this evasion is unacceptable. Solomon is, after all, his appointment, and the President could always pull the nomination if he were unhappy with his course of action. The way the President made it appear, he is at most a spectator with respect to this decision.

It is easy to see why he wants to bury his head in the sand. The decision to bring this dubious prosecution is surely a major sop to labor, because it casts a pall over any effort of management to locate its new facilities in areas that are more conducive to good working relations. Yet at the same time the President, when he is not bashing CEOs for their use of corporate jets, is seeking to maintain at least some semblance of close relations with the business community in the run-up to the 2012 campaign which looms larger each day. In a recent post, I gave my rendition of what in candor the president should have said. Needless to say he thought better of this particular option. But make no mistake about it. To an outsider it seems inconceivable that Mr. Solomon would initiate this most unfortunate campaign without some blessing, express or implied, from the President. If there is some defense that Obama could offer for this decision, I would like to hear it. But so far the silence is deafening.

(photo credit: jon oropeza)