House Report: ‘NLRB Broke the Rules’

December 13, 2012 - 2:54 PM
Boeing SC Plane

Boeing workers work gather around a 787 at the company's assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., on Friday, April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

(CNSNews.com) – A congressional report accuses the National Labor Relations Board of heavy pro-union bias, particularly in the case of allowing Boeing to locate a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The report comes a year after the NLRB dropped the legal action against the airplane maker.

“NLRB documents obtained by the Committee show a strong pro-union bias among NLRB political appointees and agency bureaucrats during their pursuit of a case against The Boeing Company (Boeing) for alleged unfair labor practices,” said the report released Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“NLRB staff also appeared to enjoy the thrill of gamesmanship in bringing a complaint against a major employer,” the report continued. “This bias creates uncertainty in labor relations because job creators fear what actions the NLRB will take next—whether it is a company finding itself subject to a complaint for making a business decision or having to adjust its operations because of new government red tape.”

The committee investigation obtained several e-mails between NLRB personnel and to and from NLRB staff with members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union representing Boeing employees that was opposed to the company’s plan to move its 787 assembly line out of Washington state and into South Carolina. The NLRB dropped the lawsuit in December 2011, allowing Boeing to make the move.

The House report alleged the NLRB violated the “separation principle,” meant to stop NLRB board members who act as judges from communicating with the NLRB General Counsel, in this case Lafe Solomon, who serves the role of a prosecutor in the civil action.

“Mr. Solomon felt compelled to forward an email to then-NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman and Ms. [NLRB Public Affairs Director Nancie] Cleeland expressing praise from a union attorney who ‘spoke about how impressed everyone is with all [Mr. Solomon] ha[s] been attempting to do and accomplishing,’” according to the report quoting the e-mail from the counsel for chair of the board.

“This email was accompanied by a blog posting entitled, ‘Labor Board Grows a Set,’ by the former head of ACORN, Wade Rathke, to which Ms. Cleeland responded, ‘[f]riends like these,” the report said. “Such communications shows an overt pro-union bias out of an independent federal agency that should conduct itself in a balanced and non-partisan manner.”

The report continued asserting, “NLRB Officials broke the rules.”

“NLRB political appointees and agency bureaucrats appear to have violated the NLRB’s separation principle between the Office of General Counsel and the Board as well as ex parte rules as they pursued the case against Boeing,” the report said.

“Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon and then-Chairman Wilma Liebman exchanged, or were both party to, more than 20 emails related to the Boeing matter. In one exchange, Mr. Solomon forwarded a HR Policy Association letter related to the merits of the Boeing case to then-Chairman Liebman and later said “I’m going to come see you in a bit . . . .” to which she responded, “[c]ome any time,” the report added.

The report continued, “Mr. Solomon, then-Chairman Liebman, and the head of the Office of Public Affairs were also part of an extensive email exchange with Office of General Counsel representatives that coordinates a response to questions from CNN’s television program State of the Union about the case. The NLRB OIG found that some of the latter emails by Office of General Counsel staff violated ex parte rules, and the agency’s ‘public affairs activities could benefit from more clearly defined policies and procedures’ to prevent such violations.”