Last night’s Republican debate was held in Greenville, South Carolina, which has become a key early state in the Presidential nomination. It was inevitable that this would lead to a highlighting of issues particular to South Carolina, as it has for most early-primary and early-caucus states. That’s driving a lot of attention around the NLRB lawsuit against Boeing for moving a factory to South Carolina specifically to avoid unionization.

A group of 19 Republican senators is vowing to defeat two of President Barack Obama’s nominations for the National Labor Relations Board after the panel sued Boeing, accusing the aerospace giant of retaliating against union workers.

In a letter sent to Obama, the senators said they would “vigorously oppose” and use all procedural tools to block the confirmations of the board’s Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon and board member Craig Becker, a former union attorney whom Obama granted a recess appointment last year […]

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who signed the letter, took to the Senate floor Thursday to blast the lawsuit NLRB filed against Boeing, saying it would cost billions of dollars and thousands of new jobs. The board filed suit in April after a union sued the aerospace manufacturer for opening a second assembly line for its 787s at a nonunion facility in South Carolina instead of union-friendly Washington state, where Boeing has facilities.

South Carolina’s Senators, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, introduced legislation that would stop any lawsuits or denial of contracts to right-to-work states. And South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley demanded that every Republican Presidential candidate answer the question of whether they would stand behind Boeing’s right to shift their operations.

At first glance this looks like Congressional overreach to silence a federal agency. If there is sufficient evidence that Boeing retaliated against union workers by moving their jobs out of state to a nonunion shop – and after all, Boeing initially BRAGGED about this, although now they’re backtracking and saying that the unions had nothing to do with it – the administrative law judge will make the proper ruling. Until then, there’s nothing really to talk about. Labor law ought to prevail.

But given the primacy of the union-busting agenda in the GOP, and the importance of South Carolina to Presidential hopes, this will get a lot more attention in the coming weeks and months.

David Dayen

David Dayen