Issa subpoenas labor board documents on Boeing complaint

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has issued a subpoena to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for documents regarding its controversial complaint against Boeing.

Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, authorized the subpoena because the panel has had longstanding document requests from the labor board since May.

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"NLRB's action in the case against Boeing has the potential to create a job-killing precedent just as U.S. manufacturers are working toward economic recovery. That a Washington, D.C.-based bureaucracy could dictate the work location and parameters for a world-leading company is unprecedented in a global economy and hobbles a leading American job creator at a time of economic vulnerability," Issa said in a statement. "As this matter could take years to resolve and create even more crippling uncertainty for job creators, it is imperative that Congress get complete facts about NLRB's rationale and its decisionmaking process in this matter without further delay."

At issue is the labor board's complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against union workers. The company moved a second production line for its new Dreamliner jet away from its unionized operations in the state of Washington to South Carolina — a right-to-work state that tends to prohibit against union membership — when Boeing executives expressed worry about union-led work stoppages leading to slower production of the jet.

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The complaint has caused a firestorm on Capitol Hill as Republicans and business groups have criticized the labor board almost daily since it issued the complaint last April. Democrats and unions have defended the NLRB, saying the independent agency should be left alone to complete its law enforcement mission.

Issa has subpoenaed documents that refer to Boeing and the International Association of Machinists, the union for the company's workers. The labor board is compelled to produce the documents to the committee no later than noon Aug. 12.

In response to Issa's subpoena, the labor board said they already have turned over several documents to his committee.

"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time since 1940 that the National Labor Relations Board has been the subject of a congressional subpoena. I am disappointed and surprised by this development," said Lafe Solomon, the NLRB's acting general counsel. "For months, my staff and I have diligently tried to satisfy the committee's desire for information while also preserving the integrity of our process and the rights of the parties in a case being actively litigated. I continue to believe that a solution is possible, and will work with the committee in the days and weeks ahead to find a reasonable and responsible balance."

The labor board has turned over more than a thousand pages of documents to the panel regarding the Boeing complaint, with more likely to be disclosed due to the ongoing trial. They also said they have had no communication regarding the complaint with the White House.  

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the panel's ranking member, said Issa issued the subpoena on his own accord without letting the committee debate it first. 

“This case is particularly troubling given that the disclosure of privileged documents could unduly influence the ongoing legal proceeding between the NLRB and Boeing. The chairman has an obligation to use his authority to issue subpoenas responsibly and not to exercise it in an inappropriate manner to assist a private party, even one as powerful as the Boeing Corporation,” Cummings said in a statement.


-- This story was updated at 3:19 p.m.