NLRB jokes about Boeing situation inappropriate, group claims

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 10, 2011, 4:00pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A Washington-based public interest group says new documents show National Labor Relations Board staff making cracks about the economy, members of Congress and the state of South Carolina.

The documents, which were obtained by Judicial Watch, concern the NLRB's decision to file a lawsuit against Seattle-based Boeing for opening a $750 million non-union assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., to manufacture its Dreamliner plane.

Judicial Watch, which says it investigates and prosecutes government corruption, obtained the documents pursuant to its original July 14 Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit.

The documents -- more than 1,100 pages worth -- mostly include internal emails between NLRB attorneys discussing the Boeing lawsuit.

Some took aim at South Carolina's congressmen.

In an April 20 conversation, Mara-Louise Anzalone, counsel for acting NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon, took exception to a statement by Lindsey Graham, South Carolina's senior U.S. senator.

"As Senator, I will do everything in my power, including introducing legislation cutting off funding for this wild goose chase, to stop the NLRB's frivolous complaint [against Boeing]," said Graham, a Republican.

In her email to NLRB regional attorney Anne Pomerantz, Anzalone wrote, "Awesome. Sounds like they're just going to furlough you and me."

Two days later, NLRB attorney Debra Willen received an email in which U.S. Sen. James DeMint, the state's junior senator and a Republican, was referred to as "Sen. Dement."

Other NLRB staffers made jokes about the economy, Judicial Watch revealed.

On April 22, Solomon sent an email to Wilma Liebman, outgoing chairwoman of the NLRB.

"The article gave me a new idea. You go to geneva [Switzerland] and I get a job with airbus [French company]. We screwed up the us economy and now we can tackle europe," he wrote.

Solomon's comment was in response to an article published in French on the European Planet Labor website noting the devastating potential economic impact on South Carolina if the plant were to be abandoned.

"Two billion dollars were invested in Charleston, 1,000 employees were recruited, and the site was supposed to open in July... until the NLRB meddled in," the article said.

On April 28, NLRB attorney Miriam Szapiro sent an email to Willen commenting on an article in the Economist, which expressed some support for the Boeing lawsuit.

"Exactly; it just shows you how incredibly reactionary the US is, that the conservative Economist thinks we're Neanderthal," she wrote to Willen.

Some NLRB staff members even took to making fun of South Carolina, according to Judicial Watch's findings.

On May 12, Joseph Baniszewski, deputy assistant general counsel for the NLRB, emailed a political cartoon to Jennifer Abruzzo, also deputy assistant general counsel, mocking the state with regard to Boeing's decision to put a facility there.

"These documents provide further evidence that the Obama administration's attack on Boeing is irresponsible and politically motivated," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

Last month, the group released NLRB documents that detailed additional controversial comments by its staff.

"NLRB attorneys come off as juvenile politicos rather than professionals interested in arbitrating a labor dispute. The utter contempt for congressional oversight shows that the NLRB thinks it is above the law," Fitton said.

"We hope these documents help educate the public about the ongoing abuse of power by this agency."

Boeing chose not to have workers in the Puget Sound area of Washington work on the 787 Dreamliner airplanes because that facility, which has unionized workers, poses a higher threat of a strike.

The NLRB says the move by Boeing violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act.

According to its lawsuit filed against the company in April, NLRB claims that Boeing's decision to open the production line in the state was "in retaliation" against The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for the series of union strikes in Washington.

Boeing argues that the NLRB's claim is "legally frivolous and represents a radical departure from both NLRB and Supreme Court precedent."

"Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional U.S. production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region," the company has said.

Nine state attorneys general wrote to the NLRB in April to express their disappointment in the agency. That number grew by seven in a June brief. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, is among the 16.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also a Republican, has called the Boeing plant saga "the most un-American thing" she has ever seen.

Speaking last month at the 12th annual Legal Reform Summit, Haley railed against unions and promised future legislation aimed at showing how they spend their money.

"If a company has to fear where to put its business, it has to fear where it expands its business," she said.

Haley said unions can only operate in secrecy and said she is planning legislation that would require unions to disclose their financial activity. Another bill would require any union that enters the state to disclose its financial activity from the previous three years, she said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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