NLRB Fails to Comply with Congressional Subpoena in Boeing Dispute, Committee Chair Charges

Aug. 14, 2011
'Heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly'

The National Labor Relations Board failed to meet a Congressional subpoena's Friday deadline to turn over documents related to board actions against Boeing Co., charged the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Aug. 12.

The "refusal," according to a prepared response from Chairman Darrell Issa, R, Calif., "further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly. The integrity of NLRB and its leadership is clearly in question."

Issa has said the documentation is imperative to helping Congress gain "complete facts about NLRB's decision-making process" in the Boeing dispute.

The NLRB is currently engaged in a dispute with Boeing Co. for alleged unfair labor practices. In an April complaint, the federal agency charged the Chicago-based aerospace company with transferring work on its 787 Dreamliner to a new South Carolina facility in retaliation for past strikes at its Washington state production site.

The dispute is currently being heard by an NLRB administrative law judge.

Boeing denies the charges.

NLRB's Subpoena Response

The NLRB presented a different perspective in an Aug. 12 letter to the committee chair.

"Today we are providing the Committee with more than 4,300 pages of additional documents now available to all parties," wrote NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, adding that the agency would continue to provide additional documents "on a rolling basis" as its collection and review process are completed.

In the letter, Solomon repeated a concern the agency has consistently expressed: its desire to provide the committee with requested information while protecting the integrity of ongoing litigation.

"We also continue to believe that the subpoena's demand for confidential documents from our ongoing law enforcement proceedings raises substantial separation of power concerns because it threatens to seriously impart the Agency's ability to perform its function of executing the law," Solomon wrote.

Ranking Committee Members Call for Subpoena's Withdrawal

Also on Friday, ranking members of three House committees joined to request that Issa withdraw his "unilateral" subpoena, arguing that a recent court ruling has eliminated the basis for the committee's investigation.

"You have stated that the purpose of the Committee's investigation is to determine whether Board officials 'exceed their authority' by filing a complaint alleging that the Boeing Company discriminated against its workers in Washington state," wrote the ranking members of the committees on Oversight and Government Reform; Education and the Workforce; and the Judiciary.

The ranking members are Elijah E. Cummings, D, Md.; George Miller, D, Calif.; and John Conyers Jr., D, Mich.

The ranking members noted that Boeing officials already had raised similar arguments in a motion to dismiss the case. The administrative law judge denied the motion.

"In the context of your stated goals for the Committee's investigation, however, the administrative judge now has answered both questions: the Board did not exceed its authority when it filed the complaint against Boeing, and the remedy sought is not inappropriate for the discrimination alleged," the letter said.

"We are aware of no precedent for your actions, and we are particularly concerned that they are taking us down a dangerous path of interfering directly with the decisions of prosecutors and even of judges who are charged with carrying out the laws Congress enacted," the ranking members wrote.

See Also:

NLRB Receives Congressional Subpoena in Boeing Dispute

Boeing Dispute Spurs Legislation to Rein in NLRB

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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