OK, here’s the second summary of a scandal threatening the Obama administration. And this one lumps in two distinct ones, because it occurred to me after I listed them that I’d overlooked one — but it fit thematically with one I did remember. And that theme is “damn the laws, give the unions what they want!”
Boeing (that’s the airplane maker, not to be confused with Boeing the manufacturer of fine pogo sticks — available everywhere!) was looking to expand. In this economy, that’s the sort of thing that should be encouraged. And Boeing jobs are good jobs — high paying manufacturing jobs, the kinds of jobs that aren’t that common in the US any more. So they looked around and decided that they’d build a brand-new plant in South Carolina, where they’d hire a couple of thousand people to make planes — and give the whole area a hefty financial shot in the arm. Starting with spending $2 billion on building the plant.
Well, Boeing’s unions back in Washington State didn’t like all those new jobs going to a “right to work” state, where Boeing could avoid dealing with unions. So they filed a complaint, saying that the move was punitive against the unions.
Now, under the law, a company is not allowed to lash back at unions, pretty much regardless of the provocation. And Boeing’s unions — through strikes, other work actions, and whatnot — had cost Boeing a metric assload of money over the past few decades. So they went crying to the National Labor Relations Board and said “they’re being mean!”
So the NLRB looked at the facts: Boeing was not cutting a single union job in Washington. There was going to be not a single lost job in the move — it was purely an expansion. Boeing’s move wasn’t a punishment of the union in any way, shape, or form — it was just not rewarding them.
But the NLRB — currently controlled by Obama appointees, including a recess-appointed SEIU former Associate General Counsel, — looked at the matter fairly, objectively, rationally, and told Boeing “screw you. You owe those jobs to the unions who’ve been boning you for decades. You can’t open that plant.” However, if Boeing chose to move those jobs to an overseas plant — say, in China — that would be just ducky with the NLRB. Their priorities: American union workers first. Foreign workers, second. American non-union workers, go pound sand.
And then there’s the most curious case of Gibson Guitars. They are one of the leading makers of guitars in the world. And a key component of their guitars — the fingerboards — are made of wood imported from India.
Now, largely thanks to the enviroweenies, there are some very rigid laws about importing wood. One such law says that it’s illegal to import wood that was exported in violation of the home country’s laws — the US will not be complicit in breaking such laws. In 2009, Gibson was raided after a coup in Madagascar put their wood on the “naughty” list, so they started buying it from India. However, Gibson found its factory raided by a US Marshal SWAT team, fully armed and equipped to go all Branch Davidian if those rogue guitar makers should even think of resisting. After all, guitars ain’t nicknamed “axes” for nothing.
Now, one might conclude that the federal government takes the law in question — the Lacey Act — quite seriously. One would be wrong. Gibson is hardly the only importer of such wood. Most guitar makers — including Gibson’s biggest competitor, C. F. Martin — use the exact same wood, imported in the exact same form. And high-end auto makers also use the wood — such as Bentley.
So, why did Gibson merit the full Branch Davidian treatment, while Martin gets a pass? Well, there are some differences between the two. First up, Gibson was raided before, in 2009 — although, by all accounts, Gibson has been extremely cooperative with the feds ever since. Other distinctions are that Gibson’s CEO is a big Republican donor, while Martin’s does the same for Democrats, and Gibson’s workers are not unionized, but Martin’s are. But I’m certin that is just a wild coincidence.
Federal officials told Gibson that they could resolve their problems quite easily — if they allowed Indian workers to finish the wood into fingerboards, and then import it. They gave no such warning to Martin, showing again the priority of the Obama administration: American union workers first. Foreign workers, second. American non-union workers, go pound sand.
There’s currently a bill in Congress to overturn the Boeing ruling, and take the matter out of the hands of the NLRB entirely. This would, I suspect, greatly irritate the Obama administration, which sees the federal bureaucracy it controls as a wonderful way to reward its friends and punish its enemies. And so far, the unions seem to be getting a pretty danged good return on the investment they put into electing Obama. In fact, I think they’re pretty much the last group he hasn’t thrown uunder the bus.