An Ethical Double Standard at the NLRB?


Board’s integrity

Why aren't the NLRB's "ethics" czars investigating the apparent improper ex parte communications of Lafe Solomon, the zealously pro-forced unionism acting general counsel for the board?

As a Las Vegas Review Journal editorial yesterday (see link above) noted, Republican Terence Flynn has resigned as a member of the powerful National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The editorial went on to explain that union officials and congressional Democrats allied with them have been calling for Mr. Flynn’s head since the NLRB inspector general accused him of improperly revealing “details on the status of pending cases.” One of the supposed “leaks” was to Peter Schaumber, a former NLRB chairman and a sometime advisor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research takes no position on the propriety of Mr. Flynn’s actions. But if the “leaks” of Mr. Flynn, one of two members of the five-member NLRB who isn’t a former union official with a track record of impassioned support for compulsory unionism, warranted an investigation and a stern rebuke from the board’s inspector general, what of the apparent ex parte communications in 2011 between Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon and then-NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman?

Mr. Solomon is an unabashed partisan of monopolistic unionism whom President Barack Obama installed as the NLRB’s top lawyer in June 2010 without the U.S. Senate’s advice or consent. In the spring of 2011, Mr. Solomon ignited a public-policy firestorm by filing a complaint against Boeing for initiating a second Dreamliner 787 aircraft production line in Right to Work South Carolina.

Boeing had no right, Mr. Solomon contended, to expand production in a Right to Work state so as to cut the cost to customers, employees, and shareholders of the disruptive strikes that the International Association of Machinists (IAM/AFL-CIO) union brass had repeatedly instigated at the company’s West Coast facilities over the years.

The Boeing case was dismissed at the end of last year, but not before IAM bosses had squeezed as much negotiating leverage out of it as they could. Moreover, Mr. Solomon has threatened to use the same novel legal theory he concocted to threaten Boeing’s South Carolina workforce against employees in other states and industries. And he may well have violated NLRB ethics rules while he was pursuing the Boeing case.

In April, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the group Cause for Action uncovered evidence that Mr. Solomon communicated with Ms. Liebman, a former Teamster union lawyer elevated to the NLRB chairmanship by President Obama in early 2009, about his media strategy in the Boeing case.

At that time, Ms. Liebman headed the board to which Mr. Solomon could be expected to bring his complaint eventually. Though the heavy redactions of the substance of the e-mails provided in response to the FOIA make it impossible to say for sure, it seems they constitute improper ex parte communications between Mr. Solomon and Ms. Liebman. It’s rather like a prosecutor and a judge coordinating their messages for the media in an ongoing case.

If Terence Flynn’s purported “leaks” were a serious enough violation for him to be driven from office, what of Lafe Solomon’s apparent improper ex parte communications with Wilma Liebman? Are the NLRB Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the “mainstream” media holding Mr. Solomon to a lower standard because they like his pro-forced unionism zealotry? If not, why is Mr. Solomon getting a free ride?

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