A Congressman from California, Darrell Issa, the one who complained about federal assistance for New York City and heroic firefighters after the 9-11 attacks and who issued a general invitation to American business to target for elimination regulations they didn’t care for, now has targeted the National Labor Relations Board.
Mr. Issa’s attacks on the NlRB arise out of an unfair labor practice charge filed by the Machinists Union. As the NLRB has repeatedly explained:
On March 26, 2010, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 751, filed a charge with the NLRB alleging that the Boeing Company had engaged in multiple unfair labor practices related to its decision to place a second production line for the 787 Dreamliner airplane in a non-union facility.
Specifically, the union charged that the decision to transfer the line was made to retaliate against union employees for participating in past strikes and to chill future strike activity, which is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
The union also charged that the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by failing to negotiate over the decision to transfer the production line. The Machinists’ union has represented Boeing Company employees in the Puget Sound area of Washington, where the planes are assembled, since 1936, and in Portland, Oregon, where some airplane parts are made, since 1975.
The complaint issued by the Acting General Counsel (19-CA-32431) alleges that Boeing violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act by making coercive statements and threats to employees for engaging in statutorily protected activities, and by deciding to place the second line at a non-union facility, and establish a parts supply program nearby, in retaliation for past strike activity and to chill future strike activity by its union employees.
The investigation found that Boeing officials communicated the unlawful motivation in multiple statements to employees and the media. For example, a senior Boeing official said in a videotaped interview with the Seattle Times newspaper: “The overriding factor (in transferring the line) was not the business climate. And it was not the wages we’re paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.”
The complaint also alleges that Boeing’s actions were “inherently destructive of the rights guaranteed employees by Section 7 of the Act.”
Then all hell broke loose. According to the AFL-CIO: “Almost immediately after the announced complaint, the Chicken Littles of the Right were out in full force. Former Republican attorneys general penning letters, Congress calling for hearings, senators holding presidential nominations hostage and threatening to defund the NLRB, the right-wing has been pulling out all the stops.” In fact, the same Right Wing forces have called for defunding the NLRB.
But it gets worse.
Congressman Issa has taken the unprecedented step of demanding that the NLRB hand over all documents relating to the case, including confidential, investigatory and privileged. This has led to a plea from labor law professors and labor policy experts to not interfere with the Board’s legal processes. In fact, these experts have written Congressman Issa pleading with him to allow the Board’s procedures to run their course.
Most recently, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Congressman Issa, has issued a broad subpoena to the NLRB seeking the production of documents “referring or relating to the Boeing Company” and “referring or relating to the International Association of Machinists.” As the Board’s General Counsel noted, this is the first time since 1940 that Congress has issued a subpoena to the NLRB. If the Board does not comply with the subpoena it could face contempt of Congress charges:
For now, it appears that Solomon will not be complying with the full subpoena request as he attempts to work out some sort of compromise solution to Issa’s request for documents. The showdown over the documents is sure to create a political crisis, as the legal integrity of the NLRB process is being questioned by Issa’s requests.
House Education and Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) was quick to respond, saying: “Coming in the middle of a trial, this subpoena would unfairly force one side – the prosecution – to disclose its internal trial strategy to the other side. It uses congressional levers to obtain from the prosecution certain documents to which a judge has already ruled the other party is not entitled. Its broad scope, covering documents held by the Acting General Counsel or the NLRB itself, risks chilling not only the prosecution’s deliberations but the judge’s deliberations about the ongoing case.”
The ongoing drama about Issa’s requests of internal NLRB documents will surely escalate the Boeing Case politically and attract attention from critics of the NLRB. Congressman George Miller sees the attack on the agency as “troubling” and aimed at undermining the legal ability of the NLRB to enforce workers’ rights.
“The subpoena issued over the weekend by Chairman Issa threatens the integrity of an ongoing trial and the constitutional due process rights of the private parties involved in that trial. It ignores pleas from members of Congress and legal experts to be mindful of the line between proper oversight of an agency and improper interference with its proceedings,” says Miller. “It is issued in the midst of troubling Republican attacks on the National Labor Relations Board and the workers’ rights that it enforces.”
What is important to note from all this is that by targeting the NLRB and using his high office to to interfere with the legal and adjudicatory processes of the Board, Congressman Issa is seeking to disempower the last effective body that by law stands up for the rights of working people. It isn’t a stretch to conclude that what Congressman Issa really wants is to disempower working men and women.
Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co. L.P.A.