AFL-CIO, local labor leader blast Boeing hearing 

The Show Must Go On

Last Friday, members of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee gathered together to discuss a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing.

And inside those chambers, Congressional Democrats and Republicans delivered a series of dramatic, Royal Shakespeare Company-caliber soliloquies. Some protested the NLRB suit against Boeing while others sneered at the jet manufacturer's decision to open its new 787 Dreamliner plant in anti-union South Carolina instead of pro-union Washington state.

According to two labor representatives, the entire hearing amounted to little more than grandstanding — a charge that can be leveled at both Democrats and Republicans.

"We welcome the jobs that Boeing is bringing. We just want to make sure they are following the law," said Andy Richards, a member of the AFL-CIO's field communications team. "Instead of our lawmakers doing the work they need to do to bring jobs, they are doing this bit of political theater."

Erin McKee, president of the Greater Charleston Central Labor Council, was also at the hearing, and she had equally harsh words to say about it. "It was a big waste of the taxpayers' money," she says. "Let the NLRB do what they are supposed to do and find out if Boeing violated the law. There was no reason to have a congressional hearing."

McKee says the whole production was a bit of political grandstanding. "Tim Scott opens up with, 'This is all about Obama's next re-election campaign.' I think it sounds more like Tim Scott's re-election campaign," she says.

However, no one seemed to tick her off quite so profoundly as S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, son of Joe "You Lie" Wilson. "Alan Wilson referred to us as the mob, union members as the mob. I just thought it was disgraceful," she says.

The labor council president says that to her it certainly seems as if Boeing violated the law, but she also believes that it is a legal matter that will be resolved in the judicial system.

That said, she believes that Boeing's decision to move to South Carolina is an example of a bigger problem facing our nation. "What I'm seeing is we're undercutting our own fellow Americans in other states in a race to the bottom," McKee says. "You used to have to leave the country, but now, it's how low can you go in your own country. And South Carolina seems to be one of the lowest."

One bit of state one-upmanship in particular troubled her. "We had Gov. Haley and the Congressman from Texas [Blake Farenthold] talking about who created the most jobs, and Texas so far is winning," McKee says. "Texas has the lowest wages in the country. Is that something to be proud of?"

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Texas tied with Mississippi with having the highest percentage of workers paid at or below minimum wage (9.5 percent). Texas also accounts for 12.6 percent of all U.S. workers paid minimum wage or less.

As for Haley's track record bringing new jobs to South Carolina goes, it's not exactly stellar. In fact, she almost cost the Palmetto State its biggest batch of new jobs since Boeing announced it was building its Dreamliner plant in North Charleston.

When online retail giant Amazon announced that they would not build a distribution center in South Carolina, creating 1,200 full-time jobs in Haley's hometown of Lexington, the governor wished them good riddance and proclaimed that she didn't believe the business should receive an exemption. After a public backlash, both the state House and Senate voted to grant Amazon the exemption. Haley refused to sign the bill into law, but she did not veto it. The law now stands, and Amazon is set to bring those 1,200 jobs and 800 more to the state.

Haley's biggest success in luring jobs to the South Carolina is dubious at best. Shortly after Amazon said it was leaving the state, Haley announced that Walmart would be bringing 4,000 jobs to Palmetto State. Based on the big-box store's history, many of those jobs would be part-time gigs with poor to no benefits. Many of the stores being built or expanded by Walmart were already planned prior to Haley taking office.


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