On the same day President Obama was asked about the National Labor Relations Board’s lawsuit against Boeing, his close friend and political ally, former Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine (D), also weighed in for the first time on the controversial dispute.
The NLRB has accused Boeing of retaliating against its unionized workforce in Washington state by choosing to open its new 787 production line in South Carolina instead. The labor board has asked a court to force Boeing to move the work back to Washington, prompting an outcry from business groups and Republicans across the country.
At his news conference Wednesday, Obama declined to comment on the specific merits of the NLRB case but said it “defies common sense” that a plant might have to shut down because of such a labor dispute.
In Virginia, the GOP has sought to tie Kaine — the former Democratic National Committee chairman now running to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) — to the policies of the Obama administration, betting that the issue will resonate in a state with right-to-work laws.
Asked Wednesday for Kaine’s position on the labor dispute, campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said: “Governor Kaine supports the existing law that a company can open, locate or relocate wherever it wants. He relied on that law to get many businesses to locate in Virginia during his time as governor, earning Virginia the distinction of the ‘Best State for Business’ all four years of his term.
“Of course, it has long been the law that a company cannot retaliate against employees for bargaining activity. The current NLRB case isn’t about the right to locate anywhere, it’s about the narrow question of whether Boeing is acting specifically to retaliate against its own employees. That factual question will be decided by the courts.”
Kaine has supported Virginia’s right-to-work law since he ran for governor in 2005, and his campaign says that position has not changed.
Kaine’s answer comes amid a growing effort by Republicans in the state, particularly the GOP’s frontrunner for the Senate nomination, former Sen. George Allen, to capitalize on the Boeing issue. Allen wrote an op-ed in Politico this week calling the NLRB’s move “an attack on the freedom and competitiveness of every state with right-to-work laws -– including Virginia.”
And the Virginia Republican Party released statements Wednesday from two top elected GOP officials — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — calling on Kaine to denounce the NLRB move and proclaim his support for Virginia’s laws.
“Does Tim Kaine really support this sort of extra-legal, Virginia-job-destroying policy?” Cuccinelli asked. “I think Virginians deserve the right to know before Kaine is given power to affect the NLRB in the U.S. Senate,”
But Democrats note that Allen has his own problem with avoiding a clear position on a controversial topic — the Medicare reform plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and endorsed by most Republicans on Capitol Hill. Allen has steadfastly refused to say how he would vote on the measure, most recently in a long, combative interview with NBC 12 in Richmond.
Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) hit back at Allen on that point Wednesday.
“Every candidate for statewide office should publicly reject the Ryan Plan to end Medicare as we know it, but so far George Allen has ducked and dodged questions from Democrats, Republicans and members of the press on how he’d vote, despite having praised the plan,” Armstrong said.