The National Labor Relations Board has dropped its controversial case against airline manufacturer Boeing, which had become a lightning rod for conservatives.
The labor board argued for much of the past year that Boeing decided to locate a new plant to build its new 787 Dreamliner jets in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, in retaliation for strikes by unionized workers at its existing facilities in Washington state.
But the panel appeared to bow to political pressure Friday, saying that a deal the company reached this month with the International Association of Machinists to build a different type of airliner, the 737 Max, in Washington satisfied its concerns.
"The charge was always about the loss of jobs in the Seattle area," NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon said on a conference call with reporters.
With the new deal, "jobs are secure in the Washington area, and also jobs are secure in South Carolina," he said.
Conservatives had argued that the labor board was trying to dictate to Boeing where it could do business, but Solomon denied that accusation.
"This case was never about the union or the NLRB telling Boeing where it could it put its plant," he said. "It was about retaliation."
One of perhaps the most vocal GOP critics of the NLRB's case against Boeing, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), strongly disagreed.
"The NLRB’s dismissal of charges against Boeing only after union approval of their new contract only confirms the charges were a politically-motivated negotiation tactic, not a serious complaint based on merit," DeMint said in a statement. "Unfortunately, real and serious damage to America's competitiveness has already been done. A precedent has been set by the NLRB that they will attack businesses in forced-unionism states that try to create jobs in right-to-work states."
"Those on the NLRB board who led this attack on workers' rights should resign immediately," DeMint concluded.
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) took a similar stance Friday. Issa, who had issued subpoenas to the labor relations board for documents related
to its case against Boeing, declared the decision to withdrawl the case a "victory," but he promised to continue his investigation.
"NLRB’s record of rogue action and lack of transparency with the public
and Congress in this case--and in others--has raised serious questions
that remain unanswered," he said in a statment.
Asked to weigh in on the NLRB's decision to drop the case as he walked to the White House Friday, President Obama said according to pool reports "I'm glad people are gonna be working."
Although Boeing had already opened its new facility in Charleston, S.C., the NLRB case could have forced it to move production of the 787s back to Washington state.
Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said about the move, “Yesterday, the International Association of Machinists withdrew its charge pending before the National Labor Relations Board. The Administrative Law Judge, before whom the case was pending, then granted the NLRB’s request to remand the case to the NLRB Regional Director for dismissal. This morning, the Regional Director of the NLRB approved the withdrawal of the IAM’s charge, and the NLRB dropped the case.
"We have maintained from the outset that the complaint was without merit and that the best course of action would be for it to be dropped," Neale said in a statement. "Today that happened. Boeing is grateful for the overwhelming support we received from across the country to vigorously contest this complaint and support the legitimate rights of businesses to make business decisions."
The case riled Republicans in South Carolina, and with the state holding a crucial early primary in the race for the GOP presidential nomination next year, it became a talking point among candidates painting it as an example of what they argue is government overreach under President Obama.
Solomon said Friday he "hoped" the criticism of the labor board would recede with the withdrawal of the Boeing case, but he also said it was possible the NLRB would make the same decision in a similar circumstance.
"If we're faced with a similar situation, we might well have a complaint," he said.
But on Friday, Solomon praised the deal between Boeing and the IAM union that led to the controversial complaint being dropped.
"It's a win-win for the company, it's a win-win for the machinists, and it's a win-win for the economy," he said.
-This post was updated with new information at 1:57 p.m.