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Boeing Needs to Evade S.C. Politics

CHARLESTON, S.C. (TheStreet) -- Perhaps Boeing (BA) got more than it bargained for when it elected to put new 787 production in South Carolina.

The giant aerospace company, a Dow component, is battling a finding by the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel that it violated labor law by moving work on the 787 to North Charleston in retaliation for a strike by the International Association of Machinists. Labor law protects the right to strike.

South Carolina boasts strong universities, great beaches and, in Charleston, one of the most historic and charming cities in the country. State leaders have taken advantage of their principal asset, the 350-year-old Port of Charleston, to create an enviable manufacturing and exporting climate that lured a massive BMW plant, now the single biggest auto plant in the country.

As a result, South Carolina has emerged as the country's leading exporter of vehicles to non-NAFTA countries and the third-largest exporter of vehicles period, behind Michigan and California.

And all this came before Boeing, the biggest single U.S. exporter, began assembling 787 aircraft there.

Access to global airports, by the way, is one more South Carolina advantage. One international airport, in Charlotte, sits on South Carolina's border. Partly as a result of BMW's presence, it has flights to Germany on both US Airways (LCC) and Lufthansa. Meanwhile, the world's biggest airport, in Atlanta, is located in a neighboring state.

Influence of S.C. History on Boeing

But South Carolina's history, which never seems far below the surface, can be troubling. The state's politicians have periodically elected to drive the train off the tracks by asserting that federal law has no relevance to them.

This occurred most notably in a sequence of events between Dec. 20, 1860, and April 12, 1861, when South Carolina essentially declared war on the United States of America. A secession convention and an attack on Fort Sumter both occurred in Charleston.

Flash forward now to a hearing Friday in Charleston, where the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will conduct hearings on the NLRB's findings.

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