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Mitt Romney Attack Barack Obama Over Boeing Plant Question

Publication Date: 
October 14, 2011

Professor William B. Gould is quoted in the following article that ran in and explored the question of whether or not the National Labor Relations Board told Boeing that it was forbidden from building a factory in a non-union state.

When Republican candidates want to fire up a crowd in New Hampshire, a reference to Right to Work generally delivers satisfying results. A Right to Work law makes it harder for unions to collect money from non-union workers. Unions hate these laws about as much as most Republican voters love them.

At the Oct. 11, 2011, GOP presidential debate in Hanover, N.H., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney played to those values. Asked about his economic plan, Romney said one principle would be respect for the rule of law, and then he took a jab at the President Barack Obama and his administration.


Stanford law professor William Gould, a former chair the NLRB, thinks the general counsel was wrong to move this complaint forward. By his reading of federal law, employers have the legal right to minimize exposure to strikes, and deciding to locate a plant in a place where unions are weak can be a strategy that passes legal muster.

But Gould said Romney did "make an error of fact."

"He’s wrong in suggesting that the general counsel’s reasoning applies peculiarly to union or non-union states," Gould said. Another labor lawyer, Jeffrey Hirsch at the University of North Carolina Law School, concurred. "This has nothing to do with geography," Hirsch said. "You could switch the states and the case would be identical."

Both lawyers also said that if Romney is suggesting that the NLRB has done anything unusual, he’s completely wrong. "The NLRB has held in countless cases that employers can’t move to another facility for prohibited reasons," Gould said. A prohibited reason would be to punish the union.