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Labor Refighting the American Civil War

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….too often, alas, it was the beginning of the end, as it was for Outboard Marine Corporation, where I once represented workers.

– Thomas Geoghegan – Wall Street Journal

As a boy growing up just outside of Richmond, VA, I used to know a few very sad and sorry human beings. I pity these people, because they lived their lives believing in a myth that had died a well-deserved death over a century before. Yet, in their minds and hearts, these people still kept musing “If only Stonewall Jackson had handled himself better on the first day of Gettysburg.”

Today, I still live in the South. In Huntsville, AL, I no longer see people wearing faded-old t-shirts with portraits of Robert E. Lee. However, I picked up the Wall Street Journal and lo and behold, I felt transported back in time to when failed human beings still blamed their circumstances on a war that tore apart America over 100 years ago. Today, I read the words of Chicago Labor Lawyer, Thomas Geoghegan, and imagined him grousing over his bagel. “If only Bobby Lee’s courier hadn’t dropped that battle plan at Sharpsburg. Then we wouldn’t be losing all our high-paying union jobs to that G—D— Johnny Reb!”

Boeing and The National Labor Relations Board have been locked up in a major dispute regarding the rights of The Boeing Company to conduct their business where they see fit to. Boeing has its traditional manufacturing center in the State of Washington. It has built there for decades, and intends to continue so doing. The plant has a capacity of 7 birds per month at full throttle. The boss needs ten airframes per month to meet demand for the Dreamliner Aircraft.

Boeing has anticipated this need and responded by tooling up to manufacture the additional demand in Charleston, SC. This would occur at a pre-existing Boeing Facility that already builds Dreamliner fuselages. Yet according to Thomas Geoghegan, Boeing would be handing off a vital part of our technological base and our national advantage to a tribe of gibbering Cro-Magnons.

Part of the fallacy pitched by the South-Bashers, is to act like all of this started only recently. Then, they pretend further that the new location is just too backwards, uneducated, unmotivated, too…Southern; to properly handle the load. Blogger J. E. Dyer explains how easily debunkable this is with about five minutes of online research.

South Carolina also has a BMW plant, a Honda plant, a Bosch plant, a Caterpillar plant, an American LaFrance plant (fire engines and ambulances), and a Daimler plant, all employing highly-skilled labor to manufacture big, intricate stuff that has to work. That’s in addition to the Milliken, BASF, GE, Core, Bose, BP, DAK, DuPont, Eastman, Mitsubishi, Albemarle, MeadWestvaco, PhilChem, Roche, Mount Vernon Mills, Invista, Metromont, Johns Manville, Alcoa, Kimberly-Clark, Shaw, Jarrett, Mohawk, Anderson, AccuTrex, Sonoco, and Cox Industries plants – and those are just the ones I recognized by industry as I looked through the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance website.

Walter Russell Mead further pulls back the curtain to reveal what a pathetic, disingenuous pile of bigotry Mr. Geoghegan attempts to peddle on behalf of his labor cartel. He describes what happened when Newsweek actually attempted to rank who had the best public high schools in America.

The results make depressing reading for the teacher unions: the very best public high schools in the country are heavily concentrated in red states. Three of the nation’s ten best public high schools are in Texas — the no-income tax, right-to-work state that blue model defenders like to characterize as America at its worst. Florida, another no-income tax, right-to-work state long misgoverned by the evil and rapacious Bush dynasty, has two of the top ten schools.

And just chest-thumping because Huntsville, AL’s own Sparkman High made the top 1,500 list would only paint a part of the picture. Just how bad are the schools not invited to the top 1,500 list? According to The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, the following statements are true about the adult population of Detroit, MI.

The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 47 percent of adults in the City of Detroit are functionally illiterate, with staggering rates recorded in some of the suburbs as well: Southfield at 24 percent, Warren at 17 percent and both Inkster and Pontiac at 34 percent illiterate.

Now, someone please explain to me, pace Geoghagen, how moving work away from a region where 50% of the adult population can’t read sends a bad signal to children who want to study engineering? The argument, in general, that companies move south to go cheap on labor costs still holds true. But the argument that the people they hire are all sub-literate morons compared to the capable and dedicated workers you find in Detroit, MI is positively laughable. This begs the question, why are Blue State labor costs so high, if they no longer hold the cognitive advantage that they may have once held back in the 1920s to the 1950s, when American industrial infrastructure built out?

In fairness to both Boeing and to Seattle, WA, a lot of what Thomas Geoghagen argues doesn’t apply. Seattle educates children far better than Detroit, Gary, IN, or Cleveland, OH. Boeing has built at least some FAA-rated components in Charleston, SC for several years. It beats having them built in Australia, Japan, or China. This would be Plan B if the NLRB and Thomas Geoghagen don’t both rapidly dismount from their high horses and stop lying to people.

Geoghagen, the NRLB and the fools I grew up with who still wore Robert E. Lee portrait t-shirts need to realize is that the American Civil War has ended. Continuing to fight it will only accomplish one thing. An entity to be known henceforth as The Wise and Venerable Aerospace Firm Boeing will build all your jets in Shaanxi. They will never be blind or misguided enough to waste their money on American Labor again.

Correction: A.P. Hill, not Stonewall Jackson, had command of the Confederate Cavalry at Gettysburg. (HT: Cheetah)

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