Sen. Lamar Alexander was tapped to deliver the weekly Republican address last Friday, apparently with marching orders to open with a lie and wing it from there. Focusing his five-minute video speech on jobs, Alexander opened by stirring an ongoing labor-law controversy involving aerospace giant Boeing into a stew of ignorance and disingenuousness:
Last month the National Labor Relations Board moved to stop America's largest exporter, the Boeing Company, from building airplanes at a non-union plant in South Carolina, suggesting that a unionized American company can’t expand its operations into one of the 22 states with right-to-work laws, which protect a worker's right to join or not to join a union.
The out-and-out lie here is the assertion that the NLRB's action means unionized employers can't move to right-to-work states. That's been happening for decades, and it won't change. One can only assume that Alexander hasn't read the actual NLRB complaint (pdf), doesn't understand labor law, or both.
The NLRB action merely initiates a process that compels Boeing to show that its actions in seeking to relocate a production line to South Carolina do not violate employees' basic legal rights. The allegation, quoting from the NLRB complaint, is that Boeing "made coercive statements to its employees that it would remove or had removed work from the Unit because employees had struck and [Boeing] threatened or impliedly threatened that the Unit would lose additional work in the event of future strikes." Rights of employees to engage in mutual, concerted activity — including to strike, and to be free of intimidation by an employer that would compromise those rights — have been a fundamental aspect of American law for well over half a century.
Given recent actions by Republicans in state legislatures (including ours) to neuter public-sector collective bargaining rights, it's hardly a surprise to find the GOP shifting its reckless assault on worker rights to the private sector. And so we see the Republican Party, with Alexander as mouthpiece, pitching the Boeing allegation as an existential threat to motherhood, God, country, and capitalism. In fact, the NLRB complaint is a plausible assertion that Boeing broke the law, nothing more and nothing less. If the NLRB overreached — and certainly there's a lot of subjectivity in determining whether statements by company officials cross a line in these situations — then Boeing will have its day in court to make that case.
Meanwhile, Lamar reveals yet again that his compulsion to nuzzle at the teat of party leadership compromises whatever pretense of moderation or intellectual honesty many Tennessee voters once saw in him.