Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Right To Hire

The actions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that prevented the operation of an aircraft plant in South Carolina by Boeing were reprehensible. The fact that an agency of the federal government can tell a private company where it may conduct its operations - within the same country - is terrifying. The proponents of such actions have put at risk the livelihood of thousands of workers in South Carolina in a tough economic environment, and should disabuse themselves of the mantle of "liberal". Though the past century has bastardized this noble political tradition, this sad chapter of force of the many versus the few pushes the envelope to a whole new level.

Predictably, many conservatives were outraged. Wrote Rich Lowry at National Review Online:

H. L. Mencken defined puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. The National Labor Relations Board is haunted by the fear that a company somewhere might be creating jobs with a nonunionized work force.

Boeing has run afoul of that fear by investing more than $1 billion in a new plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. With only the flimsiest legal justification, the board wants to force Boeing to reverse course and locate the facility with its current operations in Washington State, where its workers are unionized.

The NLRB’s claims are laughable on their face, although Boeing — trying to run a business in a highly competitive global market — can be forgiven for missing the joke. The board accuses Boeing of “interfering with, restraining, and coercing” its union employees in the exercise of their rights by making a thoroughly understandable business decision.

This is putting not a thumb, but a fist on the scale in favor of the unions. A writer at the liberal The New Republic says it “may be the most radical thing the Obama administration has done.” It’s an attempt to keep companies with the misfortune of operating in union-heavy states in perpetual thrall to organized labor.

Defenders of the free market were, and should be, aghast at the proposition that the government can tell you who you can and cannot employ. The right to hire and be hired should be counted among our most treasured liberties.

Unfortunately, most conservatives are in a poor position to champion this right. The fact that labor laws prevent Americans from hiring others across state borders often draws their ire. But when the same holds true across international borders, many of these same people voice their unqualified deference to the rule of law.

More open immigration is no more than the codification of the right to hire. The respect of this right may indeed mean the employment of laborers of lower wages (such as the workers in South Carolina) and changes in business patterns and culture.

Some such as I may view many of these changes as beneficial. But then again, I'm biased. One of my wife's parents emigrated from Mexico; my parents and I emigrated from New York. There may be those who disagree, but that gives them no right to restrict the actions of others through the force of government.

The right seeks to restrict hiring those from abroad, and the left seeks to restrict hiring in the Sun Belt. Neither can claim to defend employment freedom.

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