NLRB balks at Boeing documents subpoena

A House committee chairman called the National Labor Relations Board a “rogue agency” after the board balked at releasing confidential documents in its complaint against the Boeing Co.

“The integrity of NLRB and its leadership is clearly in question” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., after the labor board failed to fully respond to a subpoena issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa is chairman of the committee.

The labor board has sued Boeing, claiming the aerospace company illegally retaliated against its Machinists for strikes in the Puget Sound area by locating a new assembly line in South Carolina. Boeing denies the charge.

An administrative law judge in Seattle is hearing the case.

In a letter dated Friday, Lafe Solomon, the labor board’s general counsel agreed to supply Congress with 4,300 pages of documents in the agency’s case against Boeing but balked at the rest of a committee chairman’s subpoena.

“We continue to believe that the subpoena’s demand for confidential documents from our ongoing law enforcement proceeding raises substantial separation of power concerns,” Solomon wrote, in his letter to Issa.

Despite that the case is ongoing, Issa sent a subpoena last week to Solomon, demanding the release of documents by noon today.

In his response, Solomon wrote that the labor board already had provided 1,500 pages of documents but would release another 4,300 pages. However, fully complying with the subpoena would require the labor board to search “voluminous documents” through “confidential submissions.” Solomon said he would be willing to brief Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking minority member on the oversight committee.

The “subpoena threatens to undermine (the labor board’s) independence,” Solomon wrote.

The labor board has suggested that Boeing set up another 787 assembly line in Washington state to make up for the one it established in South Carolina.

The case has created a political ruckus, with the labor board drawing fire from Republicans such as Issa, Sen. John McCain and several presidential contenders. Ranking Democrats, including Cummings, on the House committee wrote to Issa today, asking him to withdraw the subpoena.

“You may personally disagree with the laws Congress enacted to protect workers against discrimination,” the Democrats wrote. “But it is not a legitimate use of the committee’s authority to circumvent those laws on behalf of corporate interests.”

Issa, however, said it’s imperative for Congress to understand the labor board’s decision-making process in the case. “This refusal by NLRB to abide by the law further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly,” he said.

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