HR Management & Compliance

Congressional Subpoena Flap Amplifies Criticism of NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena is a sign of increasing rancor stemming from the Board’s case against the Boeing Co.

The NLRB refused to comply with an August 5 subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that set an August 12 deadline for the agency to turn over documents related to the Board’s actions against Boeing.

The aerospace giant’s decision to locate a major production line in right-to-work South Carolina instead of in the company’s unionized plant in Washington came ahead of an accusation of unfair labor practices on the part of Boeing. Union supporters have claimed that the company’s decision was in retaliation for previous work stoppages at the Washington operation.

House Committee Chair Darrell Issa, a California Republican, condemned the agency’s refusal to comply with the committee’s subpoena. “The National Labor Relations Board and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon have thus far failed to comply with a lawful subpoena,” Issa said in a statement. “This refusal by NLRB to abide by the law further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly. The integrity of NLRB and its leadership is clearly in question.”

Solomon countered with a letter to Issa saying he is willing to work with the committee and has provided the panel more than 1,500 pages of documents “that should provide sufficient information to allow the Committee to assess the legal merit of the Boeing complaint.”

Solomon’s August 12 letter also touched on concerns related to a trial that is currently underway in Seattle before an administrative law judge. The trial is a result of the unfair labor practice complaint filed against Boeing.

“We continue to be gravely concerned about the adverse effect any premature release of certain documents subject to the subpoena would have on the rights of the parties to this case to have a fair trial,” Solomon said in the letter. “The subpoena covers documents to which the parties are not entitled under the rules governing the pending administrative proceeding, including documents that the Administrative Law Judge has expressly ruled cannot appropriately be released to Boeing at this time.”

But Issa’s statement claimed the subpoenaed information is necessary for Congress to get the facts. “The public has a right to know the truth about why a government agency would choose to take action to benefit organized labor that threatens thousands of non-union jobs in South Carolina while setting a precedent impacting manufacturers across the country.”

Issa continued, “It is imperative that Congress get complete facts about NLRB’s decision-making process in this matter. Its continued refusal to fully cooperate will not deter this Committee as it moves forward in efforts to determine what occurred and to hold NLRB officials to account.”