Pawlenty: NLRB’s suit against Boeing evokes 'Soviet Union circa 1970s'

GOP White House contender Tim Pawlenty is ramping up his attacks on the National Labor Relations Board for its complaint against Boeing over the company’s decision to open a non-union airline production plant in South Carolina, allegedly retaliating against unionized workers in Washington state.

“The NLRB decision and what they are saying to an American economy as to where and how they can do business is outrageous. This is not the Soviet Union circa 1970s or 1960s or ‘50s,” Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, said on Fox News Friday.

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“The idea that we have a federal agency telling an American business in a supposedly free market that it can’t grow a business or start a business in another state is one of the most outrageous things I have seen,” Pawlenty said.

Boeing opened a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant Friday in South Carolina. 

The NLRB filed a complaint against the company in April, alleging it violated labor laws by moving a second final assembly plant to right-to-work South Carolina as retaliation against unionized workers in Washington state, which, if true, would violate the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB alleges Boeing decided to place the plant outside its longstanding Washington production hub “in retaliation for past strike activity and to chill future strike activity by its union employees.” The complaint seeks to require Boeing to maintain the second production line in Washington state.

The NLRB complaint has become fodder for GOP candidates seeking to show their pro-business bona fides. 

Pawlenty has attacked it repeatedly, and it has also come under fire from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Democrats and liberal groups are fighting back against criticism of the National Labor Relations Board as they grow worried that the attacks could diminish the labor board’s authority.

A hearing in the case before an administrative law judge is set for June 14 in Seattle.