- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board ignored a congressional subpoena on Friday that requested information about its lawsuit against Boeing for building a manufacturing plant in a non-union state.

“The National Labor Relations Board and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon have thus far failed to comply with a lawful subpoena,” Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who issued the subpoena, 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.”

Mr. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, drew criticism from Democrats on the committee for issuing the subpoena last Sunday. In a letter sent on Friday, they asked him to drop the subpoena, which he had been threatening to issue for months.

“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,” they wrote. “We urge you to reconsider your approach, to withdraw your subpoena, and to identify a legitimate purpose for this investigation before taking any further steps.”

The NLRB did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Issa is requesting all documents, emails and call logs that refer to Boeing or the International Association of Machinists, which gained NLRB support in its fight against the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer, dating back to Jan. 1, 2009.

The committee wants to know the reasons behind the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing, said Jeff Solsby, Mr. Issa’s spokesman. They are trying to figure out how the NLRB went through its decision-making process, and why it ultimately decided to tackle this case against Boeing.

“It’s really important to shed some light on the decision-making process and make it more open and transparent,” Mr. Solsby said. “This is a regulatory agency that has been less than transparent about its decisions. It owes Congress and the public a thorough and complete accounting.”

The NLRB says it has turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents to the committee — detailing legal theories, motions, court transcripts and rulings — and it will turn over many of the remaining documents as the trial proceeds and evidence is entered into the court record.

But Lafe Solomon, NLRB acting general counsel, has maintained that giving too much of this private information to the committee could jeopardize the case.

“I am disappointed and surprised by this development,” Mr. Solomon said Monday in statement on the NLRB website. “For months, my staff and I have diligently tried to satisfy the committee’s desire for information while also preserving the integrity of our process and the rights of the parties in a case being actively litigated.”

The NLRB filed a complaint against Boeing in April, accusing the company of constructing a plant for building its new 787 jumbo jet away from Puget Sound, Wash., as retaliation for past strikes against the workers at that already existing plant.

But Boeing points out that it is not shutting down the Puget Sound plant, and in fact, has added thousands of jobs in Washington state, even since it announced it was moving the additional 787 work to North Charleston, S.C.

The case is being heard in a Seattle court right now. From there, it could go to the NLRB board, and eventually to the federal court system.

House Republicans have repeatedly stepped in and defended Boeing. In June, they conducted a field hearing in South Carolina — where Mr. Solomon was also forced to testify with the threat of a subpoena — to determine the impact Boeing is having in North Charleston, and the effect that the NLRB is having on the community. Last month, they started pushing a bill that would remove the NLRB’s authority to locate private businesses.

Senate Democrats, likewise, have defending the NLRB and warned House Republicans to back off.

“It is imperative that Congress get complete facts about NLRB’s decision-making process in this matter,” Mr. Issa said. “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.”