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While there were many lively moments during Monday night’s Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, there was one that resonated with the residents of South Carolina more than others. With Republican Governor Nikki Haley applauding and nodding in agreement, Texas Governor Rick Perry declared that “South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration.” Three issues have roiled many residents, all of which center around the idea that the federal government has over-stepped its bounds: a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against aerospace manufacturer Boeing; a federal judge’s ruling blocking part of a new law to combat illegal immigration; and the Justice Department blocking a law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote.
First, the NLRB lawsuit. Last June, Boeing opened a $750 million plant in Northern Charleston, South Carolina. It was the largest industrial development in the history of the state. South Carolina is a “right to work” state, meaning employers are prohibited from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Right to work states are anathema to union leaders and their Democratic enablers. Enter the NLRB. They sued Boeing, claiming its effort to move some of its 787 Dreamliner production from Everett, Washington, a union stronghold of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), represented “unfair labor practices.” The NLRB claimed Boeing’s move was a “retaliation” for a series of IAMAW strikes between 1989 and 2008.
The Board cited internal documents demonstrating those intentions, and as well as several news interviews, specifically one by Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who told the Seattle Times that while Washington State is his “preferred location” for building future airplanes, “we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.” The last strike in 2008 lasted 58 days and cost Boeing $1.8 billion in lost revenue. This was the fourth IAM strike since 1989, and Boeing began to believe that orders for the 787 Dreamliner were being endangered. Remarkably, Boeing noted that “IAM[AW] employment in Puget Sound had increased by approximately 2,000 workers since the decision to expand in South Carolina was made in October 2009.”
On December 11th, the political motivations behind the litigation became clear. The NLRB announced it was dropping the suit at the request of the machinists union in Washington, which had originally asked for the case to be filed. The union “changed its mind”–after they ratified a four-year contract with Boeing complete with hefty raises, additional job security provisions, and a commitment to expand production in that state. A tweet by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) put the case in the proper perspective. “Real damage to U.S. competitiveness already done. Precedent set that NLRB will attack workers and businesses in right-to-work states,” he wrote. Though not directly related to the Boeing case, it should be noted that the president recently made three “recess” appointments to the NLRB despite the fact that the Senate was technically still in session. The National Federation of Independent Business is suing to have the appointments declared unconstitutional.
Eleven days later, responding to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in October, Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court in Charleston, S.C. struck down parts of a new immigration law passed by the State Legislature last June. Four sections of the 20 section law were blocked: ”harboring and transporting of unlawfully present persons,” “failure to carry alien registration materials,” “the creation of fraudulent identification documents,” and a directive to state and local law enforcement officials to “determine the immigration status of certain persons encountered in routine traffic stops and other contacts in which there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person may be in the United States unlawfully.” Judge Gergel asserted federal supremacy with regard to immigration law. “No credible national sovereign can allow an individual state to embark on an independent immigration policy.”
Perhaps not. But as the people of South Carolina and other states are well aware, the federal government’s efforts to prevent “independent immigration policy” is highly selective. The DOJ has never filed a single lawsuit against any of the numerous “sanctuary cities” around the nation that violate federal immigration law. In fact, after filing a 2010 suit against Arizona for its enactment of an immigration statute similar to South Carolina’s, the Obama administration announced they would not pursue those particular kinds of cases at all. “There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law,” said DOJ spokeswoman Tracey Schmaler, at the time.
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