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Oversight Report On National Labor Relations Board Finds Pro Union Bias

News release from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Oversight Report on NLRB Finds Pro Union Bias, Ex Parte Communication Violations

December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON –Today, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa released a staff report, “President Obama’s Pro-Union Board: The NLRB’s Metamorphosis from Independent Regulator to Dysfunctional Union Advocate.” The report details how the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appears to have shifted from an equitable treatment of job creators and labor unions under previous Administrations to a politicized pro-union bias under the Obama Administration.

The report documents systemic pro-union bias with previously unreleased internal NLRB communication regarding the Boeing complaint.  Furthermore, the report provides new evidence of violations of ex parte communication rules and the “separation principle” designed to prevent NLRB Board members, who act as judges when deciding cases, from communicating outside the public record with the NLRB General Counsel, who acts as the prosecution.

Documents obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee demonstrate that:

• The NLRB, under the current Administration, appears to have turned into a voice for unions instead of a neutral arbiter of labor disputes.  One NLRB supervisory attorney encouraged a list-serve of her colleagues to prepare for a work-training event by reading a pro-union book described as “daring” and “sure to be controversial”  in labor relations.  The attorney emphasized to her colleagues that the book “proposes arguments that Unions can use, particularly in the Courts, to make the [NLRA] more effective.” [emphasis added].  Another NLRB attorney complained that it was “[n]ot good for labor relations. . . .” when workers voted out the union at a South Carolina Boeing plant.

• NLRB political appointees and agency bureaucrats demonstrated an extreme lack of impartiality as they pursued the case against Boeing.

o The NLRB’s Associate General Counsel, Barry Kearney, praised an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) press release related to the Boeing case, stating, “[h]ooray for the red, white, and blue.” 

o Upon receiving Boeing’s Answer to the complaint, one NLRB attorney forwarded it to other NLRB attorneys and declared “[l]et the games begin” to which one attorney responded “finally…”

o The NLRB’s head of public affairs, Nancy Cleeland, wrote to NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon worried that she “made the Machinists [union] mad” and wanted to discuss it.

o Mr. Solomon forwarded an email to then-NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman and Ms. Cleeland expressing praise from a union attorney who “spoke about how impressed everyone is with all [Mr. Solomon] ha[s] been attempting to do and accomplishing.”  This email was accompanied by blog posting entitled, “Labor Board Grows a Set,” by the former head of ACORN, Wade Rathke.

• NLRB Officials broke the rules: NLRB political appointees and agency bureaucrats appear to have violated the NLRB’s separation principle between the Office of General Counsel and the Board as well as ex parte rules as they pursued the case against Boeing.  Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon and then-Chairman Wilma Liebman exchanged, or were both party to, more than 20 emails related to the Boeing matter.  In one exchange, Mr. Solomon forwarded a HR Policy Association letter related to the merits of the Boeing case to then-Chairman Liebman and later said “I’m going to come see you in a bit . . . .” to which she responded, “[c]ome any time.”  Mr. Solomon, then-Chairman Liebman, and the head of the Office of Public Affairs were also part of an extensive email exchange with Office of General Counsel representatives that coordinates a response to questions from CNN’s television program State of the Union about the case.  The NLRB OIG found that some of the latter emails by Office of General Counsel staff violated ex parte rules, and the agency’s “public affairs activities could benefit from more clearly defined policies and procedures” to prevent such violations.

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