National Labor Relations Board Sued for Documents Concerning Boeing Lawsuit

It probably would not surprise you to learn that the Obama administration is apparently using the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as a battering ram to aid powerful (and financially supportive) unions. The target is the Boeing Corporation. And Judicial Watch has launched a full investigation into the matter.


On Monday, August 15, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the NLRB to obtain records concerning the agency’s decision to file its lawsuit against Seattle-based Boeing for opening a $750 million non-union assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina to manufacture its Dreamliner plane (Judicial Watch v. National Labor Relations Board (No. 11-1470)).

Now why would the NLRB insert itself into the private business decisions of Boeing? Because powerful unions are up in arms over the fact that Boeing would choose South Carolina, which is a “right to work” state, for its manufacturing plant. (In a “right to work” state, workers cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.)

We want access to the records so that we can see, among other concerns, just how involved the unions and the Obama White House were in this extraordinary assertion of federal government powers.



Specifically, we want access to the internal communications between officials, officers, and employees of the NLRB related to the Boeing Corporation in general and the agency’s decision to file its lawsuit. We want records of communication between the NLRB and the Obama White House, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and any other third party trade union, among others. And we want any NLRB records related to the impact of the new Boeing plant on employment in South Carolina. (The time frame for these requests is January 20, 2009, to July 14, 2011.)

The response from the Obama administration has been the typical stonewall. By letter of July 28, 2011, the NLRB acknowledged that the agency received Judicial Watch’s complaint on July 14, 2011. However, the NLRB has failed to respond within the statutory allotted twenty business days. In fact, to date, the NLRB has failed to produce any documents or indicate when responsive documents will be released.

In addition to refusing to respond to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, the NLRB has also reportedly failed to respond to a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seeking information related to the lawsuit. “This refusal by NLRB to abide by the law further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly,” Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said. “The integrity of NLRB and its leadership is clearly in question.”

The NLRB, for its part, is saying it filed the lawsuit in April 2011 because Boeing’s decision to open the Dreamliner production line in South Carolina was in retaliation against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for a series of union strikes that reportedly slowed production of the plane in 2008 in Washington State.

Boeing issued a forceful response: The NLRB’s “claim is legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent. Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region.”

As I’ve said a number of times in this space, personnel is policy. And when you consider who’s running the NLRB, it is clear why the agency has behaved in this out-of-control manner.

Last year, President Obama bypassed the U.S. Senate and recess-appointed Craig Becker to head the NLRB’s five-member board. The Becker appointment was made after the U.S. Senate refused to move forward on his confirmation. An ally of ACORN, Becker had previously worked for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, major financial backers of Obama and the Democratic Party. Controversially, Becker has refused to recuse himself from certain NLRB decisions affecting his former union clients.

So we have a union hack at the top of the NLRB. Even more reason for absolute transparency. 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. There are serious questions about the NLRB’s apparent abuse of power. There is simply no good reason for the NLRB to keep these records secret – unless it has something to hide. Yet again we see that President Obama, through his appointees, is contemptuous of an open and accountable federal government.

South Carolina obviously has an economic interest in putting an end to this ridiculous lawsuit. But the state is not alone in its opposition to this overreaching on the part of the NLRB. According to the South Carolina Attorney General’s office, 16 states have now joined a coalition opposing the NLRB lawsuit. The attorneys general from both “right to work” and unionized states have jointly filed an amicus curiae brief in the lawsuit on the side of South Carolina. But in the meantime, we are going to do all we can to shed light on how and why this decision was made.

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