Senate Dems tell top NLRB lawyer not to give away Boeing complaint strategy

Senate Democrats have told the National Labor Relations Board’s top lawyer that it would be “inappropriate” to provide Senate Republicans the legal strategy behind a controversial complaint against Boeing.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, 10 Democratic members of the Senate Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee wrote to Lafe Solomon, the labor board’s acting general counsel, urging him to ignore politics when considering a complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers.

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That complaint has set off an uproar among GOP lawmakers, leading some to threaten Solomon’s nomination to be the labor board’s general counsel.

The Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the HELP panel’s chairman, said the case “should be determined based on the facts and the law, not based on politics.”

Further, they felt “compelled” to respond to a May 3 letter to Solomon from HELP committee Republicans that asked the lawyer to “reveal the legal arguments and strategy that you intend to pursue in this case to members of Congress.”

“We believe that it would be inappropriate for the General Counsel’s office to compromise its litigating position by detailing its legal strategy in this manner,” the Democrats said in the letter.

In their May 3 letter, Republicans on the panel, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking member, said they were “troubled” by “the chilling effect” that the labor board’s complaint would have on businesses across the country.

The Republicans said the labor board needs to explain its thinking behind the decision to file the complaint.

“While we understand the complaint process is still in the early stages, there is a need for the board to explain the reasoning in this case to Congress. As your nomination is brought before our committee, we will be asking for a greater explanation of your actions,” the GOP letter states.

At issue is the complaint the labor board filed against Boeing on April 20 on charges that it was targeting its union workers.

The company had planned to move a second production line for its 787 Dreamliner jet to South Carolina after it was worried about possible work stoppages at its unionized facilities in Washington state. South Carolina is a right-to-work state, which tend to prohibit mandatory union membership or payment of union dues.

Citing Boeing executives’ statements on the reasons for the move, the labor board said the company was retaliating against union workers and filed the complaint.

That move has set off a ferocious lobbying campaign by business groups as Republican lawmakers look to limit the labor board’s funds. Solomon has been targeted, too, with some GOP senators promising to hold up his nomination after he filed the complaint against Boeing.

Democrats have defended the labor board, saying it’s an independent agency and that the complaint should be allowed to proceed. In their letter to the acting general counsel, Harkin and others said they have “great respect” for his work and that they also respect the labor board’s independence.

“We assure you that we will do all we can to ensure that your nomination before this committee will be considered based on your qualifications for the job,” the Democrats’ letter states.

The next step for the complaint against Boeing is a June 14 hearing before an administrative law judge in Seattle.