Editorials Examine NLRB Case Against Boeing

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) investigation into Boeing’s decision to shift 787 production from the Puget Sound to South Carolina was featured this week on the editorial pages of two of the nation’s largest daily newspapers.

In Overreach on Oversight, the Washington Post was sharply critical of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for issuing subpoenas demanding the release of all documents and communications relating to the NLRB’s Office of General Counsel’s investigation of Boeing.

The Post rightly questions the motive behind Rep. Issa’s action:

“Boeing tried to obtain many of the same documents sought by Mr. Issa’s committee but was rebuffed by a judge under the rules governing NLRB proceedings,” said the August 21 editorial. “If it obtained those documents, there would be nothing to stop Mr. Issa’s committee — or other members of Congress who obtain copies or read them — from making available to Boeing information that the judge has denied to it.”

Among the documents unsuccessfully sought by Boeing – and now being demanded by Rep. Issa – are confidential witness statements and communications traditionally protected by attorney-client privilege.

The Post editorial concludes with a recommendation:  “Most documents become a matter of public record once they are introduced in an NLRB proceeding.  If Mr. Issa’s goal is to scrutinize the NLRB — and not just to sabotage the Boeing litigation — a reasonable delay in obtaining Boeing-specific documents should not hurt.”

In How Democrats Hurt Jobs, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera delivers an error-filled rehash of Boeing’s PR talking points without giving due weight to statements by Boeing executives that triggered the NLRB complaint.

According to Nocera, Boeing is an exemplary corporate citizen committed to creating jobs in the U.S., while the NLRB is an overzealous federal agency interested primarily in regulating where a company may and may not produce its products.

In addition to accepting Boeing’s claim that the NLRB complaint is primarily about aggressive and unreasonable oversight, Nocera repeats the urban myth that Boeing offered to remain in the Puget Sound, only to be rebuffed by the IAM.

In reality, Boeing walked away from talks with the IAM despite an offer of a 10-year contract that included a no-strike guarantee for the length of the accord.

Nocera goes on to complain that the NLRB investigation represents a shift in the status quo: “Without any warning, the rules have changed,” he said. “Uncertainty has replaced certainty. Other companies have to start wondering what other rules could soon change.”

It is here that Nocera inadvertently touches on the heart of the matter: If Boeing is allowed to use its enormous financial and political resources to derail a legitimate investigation and thereby opens a pathway for other corporations to do the same, then the rules will indeed have changed, and not for the better.