June 17, 2011 -- In a hearing rife with partisan disagreement, Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, threatened to eliminate the National Labor Relations Board at his committee's hearing today in response to a lawsuit the board has filed against Boeing.
"We could eliminate the NLRB or take the premise and statutorily change it," said Issa, R-Calif. "This [lawsuit] could lead to repercussions in America's competitiveness."
The airplane manufacturer is being investigated for "transferring" the production of its 787 Dreamliner airplane from union-friendly Washington to South Carolina, where union influence is not as strong.
The word "transferring" was a sticking point for Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., because Boeing had not physically moved any jobs out of Washington. The company has added 2,000 union jobs at the Washington plant since the decision was made to move to South Carolina, where 1,000 new employees will begin working later this summer.
"The theory of our complaint does not depend on whether it is new work or not," said Lafe Solomon, the NLRB's general counsel.
Solomon said the suit was based on claims that Boeing built in South Carolina because of strikes by union workers at the Washington plant.
Democratic members of the oversight committee were outraged that the hearing was even being held because the Boeing trial is currently being heard by the labor board. The board's hearing began Tuesday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and George Miller, D-Calif., ranking members of the Oversight Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee respectively, sent a formal complaint to Chairman Issa Wednesday saying the committee hearing had "serious potential for improper interference with a pending case" and showed a "disturbing disregard" for both Boeing's and the NLRB's due process rights.
They asked that Solomon not be required to testify, a request that Issa denied. Solomon sent a similar letter to Issa last Friday asking not to testify.
Issa responded with a letter saying Solomon's "concerns are misplaced" and sought a subpoena to force Solomon to attend the hearing.
"Today's hearing makes unfortunate history," said Rep. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C. "When [Congress] threatens to issue a compulsory subpoena in the middle of a legal proceeding, it lends an appearance of intimidation."
"I am here voluntarily, but I am here reluctantly," Solomon said at the hearing, which took place near Boeing's newly finished assembly plant in South Carolina, "not because I have anything to hide but because I have a lot to protect. I need to ensure that there is a fair trial."
Throughout the hearing, which devolved into shouting matches multiple times, Republicans blamed the president, who appoints the labor board, for creating "an intra-state war" between what Scott described as a "union state and a right-to-work state."
Scott said the labor board was playing the "politics of intimidation" and said the lawsuit was a way for President Obama to "fill the coffers" of his re-election campaign.
"It is obvious that the campaign season has begun," he said.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, also took jabs at President Obama, saying there was a "concerted effort by this administration to punish states that have a different view then they do."