Thomas Geoghegan, the prominent labor lawyer, has a novel take on the National Labor Relations Board’s attempts to prevent Boeing from opening a plant in a right-to-work state: save Boeing from itself! The workers in these right-to-work states are stupid!

We depend on Boeing to out-compete Airbus, its European rival. But when major firms move South, it is usually a harbinger of quality decline. Over and over as a labor lawyer in the 1980s and ’90s, I saw companies move away from Chicago, where the pay was $28 an hour, to some place in South Carolina or Louisiana where the pay was about half that. While these moves aggrieved me as a union lawyer, it might have consoled me as an American if those companies went on to thrive globally.

My first impulse as a Southerner is to be furious. South Carolina workers should be angry at this condescension. Still, I am going to be frank and make a concession: in some places in the deep south, my hometown in Mississippi, for example, there is some truth in Geoghegan’s claim. I’m told that we have had trouble keeping factories because of the quality of the workers available. There is no reason, however, why with good leadership, we can’t adapt quickly and produce a capable industrial labor. Liberals see the world as stasis: a place that has had scant manufacturing can never develope a work force.

We southerners know differently–we aren’t nearly a stupid as Mr. Geoghegan thinks. We know that these factories bring not only jobs but the demand for better-prepared workers. We know that these plants can change our economies and our lives. We are ready and willing, Mr. Geohegan. The South Carolina workers will do just fine, Mr. Geoghegan, if the NRLP gets out of the way and let them have a chance. 

Geoghegan also insists that Boeing has brought the NRLP’s opposition on itself because the CEO admitted the company wants to build a plant in South Carolina because of union demands in Seattle. In Geogehan’s mind, this means the new plant would be built in “reprisal” for union activities, even though the new plant would not reduce the number of workers Boeing employs in Seattle. Does anybody take seriously Geohegan’s claim that if the CEO hadn’t said that costs were driving the company to South Carolina the NRLP would not have involved itself?

Oh, yeah, and the union demands are so easily affordable!

Here is yet another American firm seeking to ruin its reputation for quality. Why? To save $14 an hour! Seriously: Is that going to help sell the Dreamliner? In terms of the finished product, the labor cost is minuscule: $14 in hourly wage, at most. It’s incredible that conservatives claim such small differences in labor cost would be life or death to Boeing. It’s not labor cost but labor skill that is life or death to the survival of Boeing, never mind pilots and passengers.

In other words, doubling wages is like no big deal. Companies should just do what the unions want because southern workers are just so stupid!