Law Profs., Labor Experts Urge Lawmakers to Stop Pressuring NLRB Over Boeing Case

August 2, 2011

by Jeremy Leaming

A group of law professors and labor experts are bringing more attention to the ongoing efforts of House Republicans, and right-wing activists, to hobble the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and scuttle its complaint that Boeing violated a provision of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB says Boeing violated federal law when it moved production of its 787 Dreamliner jet from its Washington State plant to South Carolina in retaliation against workers who had exercised their right to strike.

As noted here, lawmakers in the House have also pushed a bill that would gut the NLRB’s ability to hold corporations accountable for trampling workers’ rights, and specifically nullify the complaint lodged against Boeing. That complaint is now being considered by an administrative law judge in Seattle. The judge tossed aside Boeing’s motion to dismiss the case in June.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has also pressured the NLRB over its legal action against Boeing. The Hill reported last month on a letter Rep. Issa sent to NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon requesting documents related to the case.

Recently more than 30 legal and labor policy experts in a letter to Issa urged him to back off.

“As national legal and labor policy experts, we are gravely concerned by the undue pressure that this letter, and its threats to compel disclosure of privileged documents, have placed on an independent law enforcement agency.

“We are particularly concerned,” the professors’ letter continues, “because the documents at issue relate to a case currently being tried before an Administrative Law Judge in Seattle, Washington. We therefore strongly urge the Committee to let this case proceed according to the policies established in the National Labor Relations Act without further interference.”  

The letter concludes, “In our view, independent federal law enforcers must be protected from undue interference by Congress. If the Committee continues to inappropriately interfere in this process, these serious charges of illegal behavior may never be properly adjudicated, thereby denying both parties the opportunity to tell their full story. Such a result would jeopardize our long-held democratic principles and respect for the rule of law.

Law professors Ellen Dannin and Ann C. Hodges, who joined the letter, have provided ACSblog with guest posts about the political interference with the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing. In her post, Hodges explains why the NLRB’s complaint “does not justify Congressional intervention in the legal process of an ongoing case, an appalling overreach by a coordinate branch of government.”

Dannin, in her post, says NLRB has been transparent about the case – posting its complaint on its website and “memoranda summarizing the facts of the case and information about the investigation and trial procedure. Despite this, Congressional representatives are demanding administrative capital punishment for the NLRB’s ‘crime’ of doing its job.”