Judicial Watch v. National Labor Relations Board (Case No.11-1470)
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on August 15, 2011, against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking records concerning the NLRB’s decision to file a 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)).
The NLRB filed a lawsuit in April 2011, against Boeing, claiming that the company’s decision to open a 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. According to Boeing, 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.”
Judicial Watch announced on October 5, 2011 that it received documents from the National Labor Relations Board. The documents, obtained pursuant to Judicial Watch’s original July 14, 2011, Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit include internal correspondence amongst NLRB attorneys discussing the Boeing lawsuit. Among the highlights:
- A May 5, 2011, email from Barry Kearney, Associate General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, to colleagues at NLRB concerning a press release issued by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) attacking Boeing: “Hooray for the red, white and blue.” NLRB attorney Miriam Szapiro responded shortly thereafter, “Good. I like this part [at last they can put it to some good use]: “the NLRB’s long-term professional Regional Staff, National Office of Advice and General Counsel reviewed this case for a year.…” [emphasis in original]
- A July 12, 2011, email from NLRB Regional Director Richard Ahearn to NLRB hearing officer Peter Finch, responding to an article in The Hill newspaper about a request from Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, seeking documents related to the NLRB Boeing lawsuit: “We will politely decline.” (Mr. Ahearn signed the NRLB complaint against Boeing.)
- A May 5, 2011, email from NLRB attorney Miriam Szapiro warning an unknown recipient (name blacked out) about reading a Wall Street Journal article supporting Boeing and criticizing compulsory unionism: “don’t look at yesterday’s WSJ; you’ll puke.”
- In response to an April 29, 2011, Wall Street Journal article, calling on President Obama to explain the NLRB lawsuit against Boeing, NLRB attorney Jayme Sophir issues a one word email response on May 2, 2011, to NLRB attorney Debra Willen, Division of Advice: “Ugh.”
Additional documents were obtained pursuant to Judicial Watch’s original July 14, 2011, Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit, include internal correspondence amongst NLRB attorneys discussing the Boeing lawsuit. Among the highlights:
- On April 22, 2011, Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon sent an email to Wilma Liebman, outgoing Chairwoman of the NLRB, “The article gave me a new idea. You go to geneva [Switzerland] and I get a job with airbus [French company]. We screwed up the us economy and now we can tackle europe.” Solomon’s comment was in response to an article published in French on the European Planet Labor website noting the devastating potential economic impact on South Carolina if the plant were to be scuttled: “Two billion dollars were invested in Charleston, 1,000 employees were recruited, and the site was supposed to open in July… until the NLRB meddled in.”
- On April 22, 2011, NLRB attorney Debra Willen received an email, in which Republican Sen. James DeMint of South Carolina is ridiculed as “Sen. Dement.”
- On May 12, 2011, NLRB Deputy Assistant General Counsel Joseph Baniszewski emailed a political cartoon to Deputy Assistant General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo mocking the state of South Carolina with regard to Boeing Corporation’s decision to locate its manufacturing facility in that state.
- On April 28, 2011, Miriam Szapiro sent an email to NLRB attorney Debra Willen commenting on an article in the Economist expressing some support for the Boeing lawsuit: “Exactly; it just shows you how incredibly reactionary the US is, that the conservative Economist thinks we’re Neanderthal.”
On April 20, 2011, Mara-Louise Anzalone, counsel for Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon, took exception to U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) statement, “As Senator, I will do everything in my power, including introducing legislation cutting off funding for this wide goose chase, to stop the NLRB’s frivolous complaint [against Boeing].” In an email to NLRB regional attorney Anne Pomerantz, Anzalone writes, “Awesome. Sounds like they’re just going to furlough you and me.”
“These documents provide further evidence that the Obama administration’s attack on Boeing is irresponsible and politically motivated,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “NLRB attorneys come off as juvenile politicos rather than professionals interested in arbitrating a labor dispute. The utter contempt for congressional oversight shows that the NRLB thinks it is above the law. We hope these documents help educate the public about the ongoing abuse of power by this agency.”
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 Democratic-controlled 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.
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