Boeing Forced to Turn Over Docs in NLRB Case—as Solomon Challenges Subpoena

Mike Elk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last Friday, union officials claimed a victory when a judge presiding over the National Labor Relation Board’s Boeing case ruled that the company must turn over documents related to the cost of producing planes at the unionized facility in Washington state versus the nonunion facility in South Carolina.

The case centers on whether Boeing transferred production to the South Carolina site because Machinists union workers went on strike in Washington. (The company says the shift was made for financial reasons.)

Boeing will have to release documents related to tax incentives provided by South Carolina to locate the 787 Dreamliner productions at the nonunion facility. The company will also have to release details related to Project Olympus” — a 2003 tax incentive deal with the state of Washington that was supposed to ensure Dreamliners would be built in Washington state.

Our lawyers are pretty happy with the way it worked out. We got everything we asked for. This is a victory in our book,” said International Association of Machinists District 751 Spokesman Bryan Corliss. Also, this lets [Boeing] keep what truly needs to be kept secret.” But on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the company’s response to the ruling hasn’t made one union lawyer very happy:

The document exchange began today, and lawyers for the NLRB and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers complained that the box of documents contained nothing related to the Dreamliner. About 80 percent of the papers were copies of historic collective-bargaining agreements and the rest were employee newsletters, Dave Campbell, a Seattle-based attorney for the Machinists union, told the judge after a lunch recess to look through the box.

We are reluctantly coming to the conclusion that [Boeing] has no intention of providing decisional documents,” Campbell said, adding that he may have to take the matter to district court for enforcement.

Boeing did not respond to request for comment.

In related news, it appears that Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon is refusing to comply with the congressional subpoena issued earlier this month by House Committee on Oversight and Government Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for confidential documents in the Boeing case. (Those documents would include evidence that hasn’t yet been introduced in court.)

The NLRB issued its complaint against Boeing in April; a court hearing began in June in Seattle, but opening arguments still haven’t started.

While Solomon is complying with Issa’s request to search for and compile all relevant documents in the case, he refuses to hand over some of the key documents in the case, citing the confidentiality privileges of lawyers.

In an August 12 letter (PDF link) to Issa, Solomon wrote:

given the nature of your search request, the great majority of documents that will be captured by this search will likely contain material that cannot be disclosed consistent with preserving the integrity of the Agency’s ongoing law enforcement proceeding and ensuring fundamental fairness to the parties to that proceeding.

Solomon further stated that:

The subpoena covers documents to which parties are not entitled to under the rules governing the pending administrative proceeding, including documents that the Administrative Law Judge has expressly ruled cannot appropriately be release to Boeing at this time….Full compliance with the subpoena would unquestionably jeopardize the constitutional due process rights of the parties to the case…

If Solomon does not comply with Issa’s subpoena, which has escalated the NLRB-Boeing case, he could face contempt of Congress charges — although he might be able to fight the charges on the grounds of attorney-client privilege and/​or due process rights.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.
Subscribe and Save 59%

Less than $2.00 an issue