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Mitt Romney says labor board is a job-killer, and that Obama shares blame

June 28, 2011|By Michael Muskal
(Jim Cole/AP )

FormerMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t even wait for President Obama to arrive in Iowa on Tuesday before he launched his latest attack on the president’s job policies.

In an interview with the Associated Press that the Romney campaign sent out to reporters, Romney attacked Obama for a National Labor Relations Board move against Boeing, which has built a new plant in South Carolina. If the plant is shuttered, it might threaten jobs at the Alcoa plant in Bettendorf, Iowa, which  Obama is scheduled to visit Tuesday, according to Romney.

“This Boeing decision in South Carolina sent shock waves across the nation and, if allowed to stand, will result in American job losses and I think you can be sure there will be some losses in Iowa as well as other states,” Romney said.

The White House played no role in the NLRB action, spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

“The manufacturing sector has led the economic recovery under the president’s leadership, with over 230,000 jobs added since the beginning of 2010.  Alcoa particularly has been a leader in manufacturing innovation and the president will highlight the success of this American company and its workers at the Bettendorf plant," she said in an emailed statement.

The NLRB handles union issues, including claims of unfair practices by employers against labor unions. In a complaint, the board charged that  Boeing built a $750-million airplane factory in nonunion South Carolina in retaliation against the machinists' union for strikes at the Washington state facilities. The company denies the complaint, which is in the hearing process and could end up in the courts.

The South Carolina plant would produce three 787 Dreamliner aircraft per month. The craft uses aluminum lithium plate produced in Iowa, though Alcoa spokesman Mike Belwood said that the labor board's battle with Boeing will not have an impact on employment at Alcoa's eastern Iowa plants, In fact, the plant's number of employees will grow by 60 this summer beyond the current 2,200, he said in a telephone interview.

For Romney, the dispute with the NLRB is a rod attracting two different types of lightning. The man who is considered the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination is using the dispute to attack the Obama administration’s economic policies in general and what Republicans consider to be a pro-union stand at the expense of business.

“President Obama has failed to create jobs for the American people,” Romney said in a statement from his campaign on Tuesday, ahead of Obama’s arrival in Iowa. “Instead of choosing American workers, he chooses union bosses. Instead of standing up for jobs, he stands in the way of them.”

But the NLRB action holds a special place in the heart of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a leading Republican conservative who is often followed on electoral issues and is one type of political figure that Romney needs to win his party’s presidential nod. Romney is courting DeMint, who has been fighting the NLRB action, which could perhaps cost his state thousands of jobs.

Republicans have long criticized the NLRB.

Craig Becker, a former top union lawyer, was nominated to the board but was denied confirmation when the GOP filibustered his nomination last year. Becker finally took his seat when Obama made a recess appointment that allows the lawyer to serve until the end of 2011. The board’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, is also a recess appointee until the end of the year.

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