The New American Third World


    There is a subtle message in the Republican argument over the NLRB case against Boeing: “We want a third world option.” It is part of the specious contention that the states were intended to be laboratory experiments. And it has implications for future economic growth in Virginia.

    The case is an action initiated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because Boeing’s announcements about the production facilities move to South Carolina evinced retaliation against workers for exercising their bargaining rights. The company could not have made the case easier to pursue. Maybe the board’s meager enforcement record during the previous administration emboldened Boeing.

    Republicans in the House and Senate have sent letters to President Obama complaining about the enforcement action. 19 Republican Senators (including both South Carolina members and John McCain who should have learned to stay out of SC politics) have complained to the President in a letter with an Orwellian call for a path to the past:

    “America will not win the future if Washington penalizes workers in states that have discovered winning economic strategies.” (emphasis added)

    Virginia’s own Larry Sabato has reduced the enforcement action to pandering by the Obama team. He says the action is aimed directly at unions and their workers who volunteer and contribute money to Obama’s and all Democratic campaigns. Sabato’s simple analysis reduces the case and its merits to cynical political strategy. Sabato appears fine with paltry pay and benefits.

    It may have practical economic consequences for Virginia and all “right-to-work” states. Legislation introduced in the United States Senate may permanently relegate 22 states to the status of third world economic backwaters.

    “If the NLRB prevails, it will only encourage companies to make their investments in foreign nations, moving jobs and economic growth overseas.” – Senate Republican letter

    So what the Republicans would rather do than compete in a global “free market” on our own terms is to codify “unrepresented labor zones” inside the United States where workers can discover all the reasons unions rose to prominence and power during the age of industrialization. But count on the fallout from this set of tangled initiatives being something unintended by both sides and far from straight-forward.

    There is no doubt that in the end a convoluted compromise will allow Boeing’s plant to operate in South Carolina. However, it will probably have union representation as a condition. As a result, a clearer definition of what constitutes a “new” manufacturing/production facility will make it more difficult to transfer the means of production from labor rights states to right-to-work states. Only new investment in production or the transfer of production from overseas will easily pass NLRB scrutiny. So a manufacturing plant like the one GreenTech Automotive purchased from Hong Kong based EuAuto (and is in the final stages of transfer from China to Tunica, Mississippi) would not be challenged. Everything else is another matter.

    Expansions into right-to-work states by companies established in labor rights states may carry the presumption of an unfair labor practice henceforward. That burden will hinder job growth in the new American third world where Virginia will reside. At the same time it will intensify competition for a defined set of investors.

    Governor McDonnell could not best Governor Barbour in the competition for Green Tech; in fact he wasn’t even an also ran. McDonnell has been unable and unwilling to provide incentives to mitigate the jobs lost in the Franklin paper mill closing. This current Asian boondoggle has been all show and no go. McDonnell seems to be satisfied with an agrarian economy that benefits from an accident of geography that provided a port. He claims he will announce manufacturing agreements out of this tour, but there has been no evidence of accomplishment in that area. So where will all this leave Virginia? More and more dependent upon Federal wage earners to keep us from a precipitous economic descent. It is as though Virginia, living a Tea Party nightmare, has become colonized by, dependent upon, and indebted to a “foreign” federal power. It is labor that will suffer those winning economic strategies recently discovered. This begs the question: “Where are those jobs Bob, and what will they be?”  


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