No matter how organized labor may strive to keep work out of the hands of non-union employees, we should remember that this is a day to celebrate labor, not unions.
The labor movement first proposed the celebration of Labor Day 100 years ago. However, according to the Department of Labor website, this day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” not unions. “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
I berated the National Labor Relations Board this time last year for the lawsuit it filed against Boeing Corp. for opening its 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. Based on the International Association of Machinists’ grievance in Boeing’s home state of Washington, the NLRB’s action was reprehensible on a number of levels:
Not a single Boeing union employee was dismissed or laid off as a result of the South Carolina plant opening.
No layoffs were anticipated by Boeing in Washington. As a matter of fact, Boeing hired an additional 2,000 union employees.
The NLRB waited until Boeing had invested $750 million in the new South Carolina plant before filing its complaint.
In December, the NLRB withdrew its complaint after the machinists union approved a four-year extension of its contract with the aircraft manufacturing giant. After its contract extension, the union dropped its charge that Boeing violated federal labor law.
Whether the agreement was the result of extortion aided and abetted by the NLRB or an arm’s length agreement can be argued for years to come. One thing is certain, however: Labor came out the winner. At its beginning, Boeing hired 1,000 new non-union employees at its South Carolina facility. By the time the first 787 Dreamliner rolled out, that number had swelled to 6,000.
Neither the administration nor the NLRB built that facility. The machinists union didn’t make it happen. Each did everything within its power to prevent it from happening. It was only the determination of Boeing management together with the people of South Carolina that put the “dream” in the Dreamliner, making it possible for 6,000 new employees to provide for their families. It’s those 6,000 to whom I wish a happy Labor Day.
The following address by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to the Republican National Convention described the struggles her state went through on behalf of the Boeing plant opening.
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