BY: Joel Gehrke
December 13, 2012 | 12:00 am
House Oversight and Government Reform committee lawmakers concluded that the National Labor Relations violated ethics rules while trying to close Boeing’s factory in South Carolina, an action that investigators suggest was taken in order to help a union negotiate a better agreement with Boeing.
“NLRB leadership broke internal rules, ethics rules, and refused to fully cooperate with a congressional investigation for many months,” the new committee report states, noting that the NLRB board members and the board’s Office of General Counsel communicated regularly about the Boeing case, explaining that the two sides of NLRB are not supposed to discuss possible prosecutions.
The report shows that NLRB was less than forthcoming about these rules violations. “NLRB leadership misled the Committee about communications between the Office of General Counsel and the Board concerning the complaint against Boeing,” the report says. Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon denied that any such communication took place, even though Solomon and the then-chairman of the board “exchanged or were both party to, more than 20 emails related to the Boeing matter.” The report notes that, at one point, Solomon emailed the chairman about “the merits of the Boeing case” before ending the email exchange by arranging a face-to-face meeting.
Cause of Action, a government watchdog group, wrote the Justice Department to request that DOJ “determine whether potential avenues for prosecution exist” to crack down on such misconduct at NLRB.
House Oversight also found evidence suggesting that the NLRB brought the Boeing complaint — which would have required the company to close a non-union factory in the right-to-work state of South Carolina — in order to help the International Association of Machinists negotiate a better collective bargaining agreement with Boeing.
“Some internal documents exist to substantiate this theory,” the report says. “A couple of months before the complaint was filed, IAM’s attorney called an NLRB attorney to say that his client wanted to know ‘what’s going on.’ Mr Kearney responded ‘[t]ell him Lafe [Solomon] is thinking about it. I had an unsatisfactory conversation with [Boing's attorney.]‘ While it is unclear what Mr. Solomon was ‘thinking about,’ it is possible that it concerned bringing a complaint to induce a settlement.”
When IAM and Boeing negotiated a four-year collective bargaining agreement pertaining to work that union employees would do in Washington, the NLRB celebrated. Richard Ahearn, the NLRB regional director in Seattle, called it “a huge event for the [NLRB], this [Seattle] area, and the labor movement,” according to the report [committee emphasis].
The NLRB dropped its attempt to close the right-to-work factory after the IAM/Boeing deal went through.