by Keith Laing – 08/16/11 05:01 PM ET – A conservative legal watchdog group has sued the National Labor Relations Board for documents related to its case against airplane manufacturer Boeing that the panel has been hesitant to release.
Washington-based Judicial Watch announced Tuesday that it was filing the suit under the Freedom of Information Act in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The group said it submitted a FOIA request to the NLRB last month and has not received the documents.
Judicial Watch, like Republican critics of the lawsuit in Congress, argues that the NLRB’s case against Boeing is politically motivated.
“With its July 14, 2011, FOIA request and related lawsuit Judicial Watch seeks records of internal communications between officials, officers, and employees of the NLRB related to Boeing and the agency’s decision to file a lawsuit,” Judicial Watch said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Judicial Watch also seeks records of communication between the NLRB and the Obama White House, the Internal Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and any other third party trade union, among others.”
The NLRB’s complaint against Boeing argues that the company decided to build a plant in South Carolina — a right-to-work state — to retaliate for labor strikes at its existing facilities in Washington state.
The case is before an administrative law judge in Seattle now, and the NLRB has resisted efforts to compel the release of some documents because of concerns about affecting the fairness of the proceedings.
Over the objection of Democrats, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — has issued subpoenas for documents related to the case, making similar arguments to Judicial Watch.
Issa called the NLRB a “rogue agency” when the panel replied to his subpoena with its concerns about protecting the case.
“The National Labor Relations Board and Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon have thus far failed to comply with a lawful subpoena,” Issa said in a statement released by his office last week. “This refusal by NLRB to abide by the law further heightens concerns that this is a rogue agency acting improperly.”
In a letter to Issa written in response to the subpoenas, the NLRB argued they were unnecessary because the agency has cooperated with Issa’s investigation.
“To date, this office has provided the committee with more than 1,500 pages of documents that should provide sufficient information to allow the committee to assess the legal merit of the Boeing complaint,” Solomon wrote to Issa. “This office has repeatedly pledged to provide information in a manner that protects the rights of the parties to the case. In keeping with our commitment, today we are providing the committee with more than 4,300 pages of additional documents now available to all parties.”
Solomon added that the NLRB was “gravely concerned about the adverse effect any premature release of certain documents subject to the subpoena would have on the rights of the parties to this case to have a fair trial.”
The NLRB did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Judicial Watch lawsuit Tuesday.
Boeing opened the new plant at issue in June in Charleston, S.C. The company plans to build 787s at the facility, but if the NLRB complaint is ultimately successful, the company could be forced to build them in Seattle instead.
The case before the administrative law judge in Seattle is expected to last several weeks.