During an interview with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo whitewashed Boeing's alleged discrimination against union workers and suggested that the National Labor Relations Board should not intervene when companies violate the law to intimidate union workers. Right-wing media have repeatedly distorted the facts about NLRB's complaint against Boeing, including wrongly asserting that the NLRB brought suit against Boeing "because the jobs are non-union."
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Bartiromo Disappeared Alleged Boeing Discrimination At The Heart Of NLRB Suit
Bartiromo: Boeing Had To Shut Down South Carolina Plant "Because It's Non-Union." During the October 28 interview, Maria Bartiromo advanced the right-wing claim that the NLRB suit against Boeing was related to the fact that a Boeing plant in South Carolina was "non-union." From the interview:
BARTIROMO: This is the final question here on this murky environment that we're seeing. CEOs tell me all the time that, you know, they don't know the details of Dodd-Frank. It's the law of the land and we're still writing the rules.
PELOSI: It takes time.
BARTIROMO: We've got the EPA making decisions and legislations. It's supposed to come from Congress and it seems like, you know, we're going around things and the EPA is coming out with its own rules. You've got the Labor Relations Board, the situation with Boeing. I mean, for starters, do you think it's right that Boeing has to close down that plant in South Carolina because it's non-union?
BARTIROMO: They should close it down.
PELOSI: I don't think they'd close it down --
PELOSI: -- I would hope that they would make it union. [CNBC, Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo, 10/28/11]
Bartiromo: "Should Government Be Getting Involved In Corporate Decisions Like That?" Bartiromo later suggested that it was inappropriate for the NLRB to get involved in the matter, saying Boeing's move to South Carolina was "a corporate decision" and government shouldn't "be getting involved in corporate decisions like that." From the interview:
BARTIROMO: But this is a corporate decision. Should government be getting involved in corporate decisions like that?
PELOSI: And the other part of that is you go to regulatory reform and what about Boeing and this or that? Even the people in Washington state and the people in South Carolina agreed that that was not a good outcome, that something else -- a better course of action could have been had on the Boeing. But I don't want to get bogged down in that particular decision.
BARTIROMO: Well, what are the decisions our government -- is government going to make about another company? I mean, that's the issue. I mean, if you're going to say, you know, make a decision on one plant, what else are you going to tell a company? [CNBC, Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo, 10/28/11]
Bartiromo Again Claimed NLRB Had No Right To Get Involved In Boeing Decision. In a post on her Twitter feed, Bartiromo wrote: "Its not really about union or no union. Its abt. Whether gov should be getting involved in these decisions. A Corp decision or a gov one?" From the post:
In Fact, NLRB Had To Get "Involved" Because Boeing Allegedly Violated Labor Laws
NLRB Complaint Alleges Boeing CEO Said He Was Moving Work To South Carolina "Due To 'Strikes Happening Every Three To Four Years.' " From the complaint against Boeing filed by the NLRB general counsel's office:
[Boeing president, chairman, and CEO Jim McNerney] made an extended statement regarding "diversifying [Respondent's] labor pool and labor relationship," and moving the 787 Dreamliner work to South Carolina due to "strikes happening every three to four years in Puget Sound." [The Boeing Company NLRB general counsel's office complaint, 4/20/11]
Complaint Alleges Boeing Decided To Move Work To "Discourage" Union Strikes In The Future. From paragraph 7 of the complaint:
(a) In or about October 2009, on a date better known to Respondent, but no later than October 28, 2009, Respondent decided to transfer its second 787 Dreamliner production line of 3 planes per month from the Unit to its non-union site in North Charleston, South Carolina.
(b) Respondent engaged in the conduct described above in paragraph 7(a) because the Unit employees assisted and/or supported the Union by, inter alia, engaging in the protected, concerted activity of lawful strikes and to discourage these and/or other employees from engaging in these or other union and/or protected, concerted activities.
(c) Respondent's conduct described above in paragraph 7(a), combined with the conduct described above in Paragraph 6, is also inherently destructive of the rights guaranteed employees by § 7 of the Act. [The Boeing Company NLRB general counsel's office complaint, 4/20/11]
NLRB Explicitly Said It "Does Not Seek To Have The South Carolina Facility Closed"
NLRB Fact Check: "The Complaint Explicitly States That Boeing May Place Work Where It Likes." In response to a number of news outlets "erroneously report[ing]" the Boeing case, the NLRB issued the following fact check stating that "Boeing may place work where it likes" "as long as the decision is not made for discriminatory reasons." From the NLRB fact check:
Several news outlets have erroneously reported in recent days that the National Labor Relations Board has ordered the Boeing Company to close its operations in South Carolina. [...] In fact, the complaint issued on April 20 by the Acting General Counsel does not seek to have the South Carolina facility closed. It seeks to halt the transfer of a specific piece of production work due to allegations that the transfer was unlawfully motivated. The complaint explicitly states that Boeing may place work where it likes, including at its South Carolina facility, as long as the decision is not made for discriminatory reasons.
In addition, the Board has not yet considered or ruled on the allegations in the complaint. Under the NLRB's statute, the General Counsel and the Board are separate and independent, with the General Counsel functioning as prosecutor and the Board functioning as a court. The case is scheduled to be tried before an administrative law judge, acting under the Board's authority. That decision could then be appealed to the Board itself for its decision. [NLRB.gov, 4/26/11]
Complaint Specifically Says Boeing Is Free To Make "Non-Discriminatory Decisions" About "Where Work Will Be Performed." The complaint asks that the 787 production line that was moved to South Carolina allegedly for the illegal purposes of punishing Washington state workers for going on strike be moved back to Washington state. However, the complaint adds that it "does not seek to prohibit [Boeing]" from having work performed in South Carolina or anywhere else as long as Boeing does not violate labor laws in making such decisions. From paragraph 13 of the complaint:
(a) As part of the remedy for the unfair labor practices alleged above in paragraphs 7 and 8, the Acting General Counsel seeks an Order requiring Respondent to have the Unit operate its second line of 787 Dreamliner aircraft assembly production in the State of Washington, utilizing supply lines maintained by the Unit in the Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, area facilities.
(b) Other than as set forth in paragraph 13(a) above, the relief requested by the Acting General Counsel does not seek to prohibit Respondent from making non-discriminatory decisions with respect to where work will be performed, including non-discriminatory decisions with respect to work at its North Charleston, South Carolina, facility. [The Boeing Company NLRB general counsel's office complaint, 4/20/11]
Experts Agree That If True, Boeing Allegations Are A "Classic Violation" Of Federal Labor Laws
Labor Law Professor Brudney: "Relocating Work Away From A Plant Because Of Too Much Lawful Union Activity Would Be A Classic Violation" Of Federal Labor Laws. In a telephone interview with Media Matters, James J. Brudney, the Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, said: "Relocating work away from a plant because of too much lawful union activity would be a classic violation of 8(a)(3)" of the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it illegal for employers "to discriminat[e] in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization." [Phone interview with Media Matters, 5/11/11]
Labor And Employment Law Professor Fisk: If NLRB Complaint Is True, This Is An "Absolutely Standard Violation" Of Federal Labor Laws. In a telephone interview with Media Matters, University of California-Irvine Chancellor's Professor of Law Catherine Fisk said that if the NLRB general counsel's complaint is true, this is an "absolutely standard violation of Section 8(a)(1) [of the National Labor Relations Act], which has been in the statute since 1935 and prohibits retaliation against employees for protected activities" such as forming a union, engaging in collective bargaining, and striking. Fisk also said that she saw "nothing controversial" about the complaint. [Phone interview with Media Matters, 5/11/11]
Fisk: Company Violates Federal Labor Laws If It Relocates Work For Purposes Of "Seeking To Stop Workers From Engaging In Unionizing, Collective Bargaining, And Striking." Fisk also said that the case against Boeing is "all about whether the company was retaliating for the workers' decision to unionize" or engage in another protected activity like striking. She said, "It is permissible for an employer to move work to find lower wages," but it violates labor laws if they do it for the purpose of "seeking to stop workers from engaging in unionizing, collective bargaining, and striking." [Phone interview with Media Matters, 5/11/11]
Boeing Case Is Part Of "A Very Long Line Of Cases ... NLRB Has Been Pressing Since The 1940s"
Fisk: Complaint Against Boeing Is Part Of "A Very Long Line Of Cases That The NLRB Has Been Pressing Since The 1940s." Fisk also said that the complaint against Boeing is part of "a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest." [Phone interview with Media Matters, 5/11/11]
Predictably, Right-Wing Media Seized On Bartiromo's Flawed Question To Attack Pelosi
Weekly Standard: "Nancy Pelosi Supports NLRB Decision Telling Boeing Where to Build Factories." The Weekly Standard trumpeted video of Bartiromo's interview that had been posted at Republican Rep. Eric Cantor's YouTube video to attack Pelosi, claiming in a blog post that she "supports NLRB decision telling Boeing where to build factories." From the blog:
Maria Bartiromo asks Nancy Pelosi a few pointed questions on the oppressive regulatory environment. The minority leader says she has no problem with the National Labor Relations Board's decision to tell Boeing it can't build a factory in South Carolina. [The Weekly Standard, 10/29/11]
Fox Nation: "Pelosi Says She Supports Pro-Union NLRB Telling Boeing Where To Build Its Factories." Fox Nation highlighted the Cantor YouTube video on its website and linked to the Weekly Standard blog post under the headline, "Pelosi Says She Supports Pro-Union NLRB Telling Boeing Where To Build Its Factories..." [Fox Nation, 10/30/11]
Right-Wing Media Have Repeatedly Distorted The Facts Surrounding Boeing Case
Conservative Media Falsely Claimed NLRB Is Seeking To Ban Companies From Moving To States That Are Unfriendly To Unions. Conservative media figures claimed that the NLRB is seeking to ban companies from moving to states with lax labor laws by filing a complaint against Boeing's decision to move the production facility for its new 787 Dreamliner to South Carolina. [Media Matters, 5/11/11]
Fox Misrepresented NLRB Case To Claim Case Is "The End Of Freedom In America." Fox repeatedly spread misinformation about the NLRB case against Boeing, going so far as to call the case "the end of freedom in America." Fox personalities also suggested that the NLRB was engaging in unlawful or "anti-American" activity by filing the complaint. [Media Matters, 6/16/11; 6/21/11]
WSJ Misleadingly Claimed NLRB Sued To Keep Boeing From Building A Plant In South Carolina. The Wall Street Journal claimed that the NLRB complaint against Boeing attempts to "prevent [Boeing] from building a new plant in South Carolina" and "attempts to punish workers merely because their states passed right-to-work laws." [Media Matters, 7/28/11]
Fox's Huddy Claimed "NLRB Is Suing" Boeing "Because The Jobs Are Non-Union." Fox News' Juliet Huddy falsely claimed that the NLRB complaint against Boeing is the result of planned Boeing jobs in South Carolina being "nonunion" and that the NLRB's action is "unprecedented." [Media Matters, 9/2/11]