Conservative watchdog sues NLRB over request for its Boeing documents

Add another lawsuit to the long list of complaints and legal arguments surrounding the National Labor Relations Board’s case against the Boeing Co.

Judicial Watch, a public interest group, has sued the labor board to force it to release documents in the case. The conservative watchdog organization said it requested information from the labor board on July 14 through the Freedom of Information Act. Although the labor board acknowledged Judicial Watch’s request, it failed to respond in the allotted time frame, the group said on Tuesday.

The federal agency has sued Boeing, alleging the company illegally retaliated against its Machinists union in Washington state when the jet maker opened a second 787 factory in South Carolina. Boeing’s pick of North Charleston in 2009 came a year after the company’s Puget Sound-area Machinists staged a 57-day strike in 2008. Boeing denies the labor board’s claims.

The NLRB’s general counsel has said that Boeing should add another 787 line in Washington to make up for its alleged wrongdoing.

“The American people have a right to know the facts surrounding the extraordinary decision by the NLRB to sue Boeing in order to effectively shut down an entire factory in South Carolina,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “There is simply no good reason for the NLRB to keep these records secret — unless it has something to hide.”

An administrative law judge is hearing the labor board’s case against Boeing in Seattle. Although the hearing began mid-June, the parties have not reached the stage where they can call witnesses or give opening statements. Instead, the attorneys are squabbling over the release of documents.

Boeing handed over more files on Tuesday, but it wasn’t the information the Machinists sought.

Last Friday, Lafe Solomon, the labor board’s general counsel, also declined to provide all of the documents requested by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform because of the ongoing nature of the case. The House committee’s subpoena asked for all documents in the labor board’s possession that relate to Boeing. It also requested all communications involving the labor board that refer to Boeing or the Machinists.

Judicial Watch sought records or communications involving the labor board, Boeing, the Machinists, the White House, the office of the president, the states of Washington and Oregon and the AFL-CIO from January 2009 to mid-July 2011.

Solomon told the House Committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that some documents may become available after the court case is concluded. Boeing has sought to keep documents involving trade secrets confidential.

Unless Boeing and the Machinists settle out of court, the case could drag on for years, eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.

Boeing’s labor board case

To read the documents available in the case, go to www.nlrb.gov/node/516.

To read correspondence between Congress and the labor board, go to www.nlrb.gov/node/967.

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