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Liberal law group warns of Hill pressure in Boeing-labor fight

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The National Labor Relations Board should be "insulated" from the congressional Republicans who are pressuring the agency to drop a case against aerospace giant Boeing, because it could "intimidate" the group and "taint" the case, legal experts said Thursday in a panel hosted by the liberal-leaning American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

The NLRB has blocked the opening of a major new Boeing manufacturing plant in South Carolina, saying the company will be illegally punishing its unionized workers in Washington state over past strikes. The case has brought fierce complaints from leading business groups and from prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill, who accuse the agency of regulatory overreach and favoritism to the unions.

A hearing on the case is set for next Tuesday.

"There is a concern that [congressional pressure] could taint the case," said James J. Brudney, a law professor at Ohio State University, part of the ACS panel.

Boeing officials contend the NLRB, which now has a majority of members appointed by President Obama, is interfering in what a private business decision. The company also argues it will not cut jobs in Washington state to make room for the new out-of-state plant, and is even adding jobs in its traditional manufacturing base.

GOP lawmakers have sent letters to the NLRB and to President Obama, demanding the case be dropped and warning it could stifle business and hurt job creation in the U.S.

But Democrats contend that Republican lawmakers should stay out of the independent agency's regulatory processes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said recently the GOP moves were "inappropriate" and an attempt to “poison the decision-making process” in favor of big business.

Mr. Brudney seemed to agree that these efforts by Republican lawmakers could "undermine" the outcome of the case and unduly influence the NLRB.

"They're acting similarly to judges and they should be insulated from extreme political pressures," he said. "…I wouldn't be surprised if these acts ultimately intimidate" the agency.

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