Policy: Labor

National Right to Work Foundation requests investigation of NLRB action

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,NLRB,Right to work,Volkswagen

Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have requested that the National Labor Relations Board's inspector general probe the board's recent decision to publicly release internal legal advice memos involving the foundation's cases.

NRTW has been representing employees of a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in complaints against both the car manufacturer and the United Auto Workers. In memos written Jan. 17 and made public Jan. 23, NLRB lawyers called for the board to dismiss the complaints.

Officials with the foundation say the memos were provided to local reporters before the foundation itself was even aware of them.

"The NLRB’s actions undermined foundation attorneys' ability to advise their clients before the NLRB’s dismissal of their cases became publicly known," said Ray LaJeunesse, the NRTW's legal director. "The NLRB's conduct further cements the perception that one set of rules applies to benefit union bosses and another set of rules applies against workers who wish to remain union-free."

The NLRB attorney memos are recommendations to the board. While the cases in question remain open, the memos were a bad sign for NRTW since the advice is usually followed by the board.

NRTW spokesman Anthony Riedel told the Washington Examiner that the NLRB's advice memos are usually released after the case has been closed. "When the NLRB chooses to release them – which is far from every case – they do eventually put the released memos on the website, but it is rare and suspicious for them to hurriedly release the memos in an open case."

The foundation also obtained, apparently by accident, an series of internal NLRB emails on Jan. 23 relating to the memos' release. The message indicates the federal labor law enforcement agency was getting numerous requests from reporters for updates on the case.

"The advice memo was [made] public by us because we had so many requests," NLRB Associate General Counsel Barry Kearney told a colleague in the email.

The foundation points to the fact that in the email, NLRB regional director Claude Harrell writes: "I hope the RTW folks do not pick apart the dismissal letters because they may not exactly track the advice wording."

Harrell also expresses frustration in the email at the apparent change in NLRB policy, telling Kearney: "For future reference, it would have been a lot easier knowing the memorandum had been made public."

NRTW said the "hurried" public release of memos that rejected its clients' complaints "calls into question the agency’s impartiality in the workers' cases."

A spokesman for the NLRB could not be reached for comment.

The possibility that UAW will unionize the Chattanooga VW plant -- which would be a major foothold in the traditionally union-averse South -- has drawn national attention. For more background on the case, see my Nov. 11 column on the matter.

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