The House approved legislation Thursday prohibiting National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from dictating corporate decisions about where to set up shop.
The House approved H.R. 2587 in a 238-186 vote in which eight Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bill and seven Republicans voted against it.
The bill is a response to the NLRB's decision to sue Boeing after it opened a manufacturing plant for its new 787 Dreamliner jet in South Carolina. The NLRB is charging that the plane manufacturer picked South Carolina for new production in order to retaliate against strikes by its unionized workers in Washington state. South Carolina is a right-to-work state that generally bans union membership.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), would prohibit the labor board from ordering a company to relocate its employment. If the NLRB's complaint against Boeing is held up, the company would have to maintain the production line in Washington, though it would not be forced to close its South Carolina operations.
The bill will likely have little chance in the Senate, where Democrats control the chamber. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has promised to fight for a floor vote on the legislation once it passes the House.
"This Republican bill simply says that forcing a business to close its doors and relocate to another part of the country is an unacceptable remedy for today's workforce," said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "If the NLRB is allowed to exercise this radical authority, it will have a chilling effect on our economy."
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who spoke in favor of the bill, said the NLRB's suit ignores the difficulty Boeing had in Washington state. He and others noted that Boeing has had trouble keeping up with its production schedule because of striking workers.
"The NLRB thinks a company should stay in a union state, no matter how many work stoppages there are, no matter how many customers have threatened to go do business somewhere else because they can't get their planes on time, no matter how many fines have been paid because of late delivery of airplanes because of work stoppages," Gowdy said. "No matter how much money is lost ... the NLRB thinks that Boeing should have to stay in a union state because it planted a flag originally in a union state."
Gowdy added that the NLRB in its current form has become "just a taxpayer-funded law firm for big labor."
Democratic leaders took to the floor to argue against the bill, saying it would undermine fundamental rights enjoyed by all U.S. workers.
"Rather than create jobs, this measure encourages the outsourcing of jobs and undermines the rights of middle-class workers," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "This bill cuts the National Labor Relations Board, makes it easier for corporations to ship jobs overseas and allows employers to punish their employees for simply exercising their rights to organize, to demand better benefits and safer working conditions, to ensure a full day's pay for a full day's work."
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the bill would put real limits on the right of workers to bargain collectively. He said the bill would allow companies to say to workers, "Yeah, you have the right to bargain collectively, but if we don't like what you're doing, we're taking a hike."
Trade associations have lent their significant lobbying weight in support of the bill. Both the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told lawmakers that they would score votes on the bill.
Conservative activist groups, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth, also have pushed for passage of the bill.
Unions are in opposition, saying the legislation will gut worker protections and undermine the NLRB's legal authority.
-- This story was updated at 2:07 p.m. to correct Kline's committee chairmanship.