Sunday, April 24, 2011

Native Arkie labors for workers

Posted By on Sun, Apr 24, 2011 at 7:47 AM

Lafe Solomon
  • Lafe Solomon
It's a pleasure to call attention to an Arkansas native who's distinguishing himself in Washington.

He's Helena native Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, by appointment of President Obama after a career at the agency that began in 1972.

He's making some waves. This article is about action to reverse a Boeing move of a factory from unionized Washington state to non-union South Carolina on ground that it was illegal retaliation against striking union members. It's part of what businesses see as a worker-friendly tilt of the labor agency. Imagine. Someone looking out for workers and not just corporate profits.


The Boeing case was not the first time that Mr. Solomon has riled the business community and its Republican allies. Saying it is the domain of the federal government, he recently threatened to sue four Republican-heavy states — Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah — in an effort to invalidate recent constitutional amendments that prohibit private sector workers from choosing a union by signing cards, a process known as card check.

He has also sought to extend the labor board’s reach into the world of the Internet. He approved requests from regional labor board officials to bring complaints against businesses that punished employees for Facebook and Twitter posts, including one case against Reuters. Mr. Solomon has also proposed that electronic voting be used when workers decide whether they want to unionize their workplace — a proposal that business groups maintain will make it easier for unions to coerce workers.

In an interview, Mr. Solomon, a 61-year-old Arkansas native, insisted that he was no radical.

“My goal is to enforce the National Labor Relations Act,” he said. That law, enacted in 1935, governs private sector workers’ right to unionize as well as relations between tens of thousands of companies and employees.

UPDATE: The NLRB provides an information sheet which I think might be helpful in light of some misunderstandings in readers' comments. This is not the normal kind of NLRB case where a company gives a trumped-up reason for some action that hurt union workers, and the "real" unlawful motive had to be ferreted out from weeks of going over company records and interviewing witnesses. Rather, Boeing stated publicly that it was going to establish a second shift to turn out Dreamliners, and that it was going to assign that shift to the non-union South Carolina plant rather than Washington State because of the past and possible future strike activity at the Washington State plant.

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