Leaked internal emails bring agency's impartiality further into question
Washington, DC (January 29, 2014) – National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, led by former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Member John Raudabaugh, have requested an official inquiry into the NLRB's conduct in adjudicating several Chattanooga Volkswagen America workers' charges against VW and the United Auto Worker (UAW) union during the on-going, highly-contentious UAW organizing campaign.
Foundation staff attorneys have asked the NLRB's Inspector General to investigate the agency's conduct during its processing of the workers' unfair labor practice charges that the NLRB Division of Advice instructed the NLRB Regional Director in Atlanta to dismiss.
Several VW workers filed charges alleging improprieties in the UAW union hierarchy's card check process, including getting workers to sign union authorization cards by coercion and misrepresentation and using cards signed too long ago to be legally valid. Some of those workers also filed a federal charge against the company alleging that statements by German VW officials are illegally coercing their fellow workers to accept UAW monopoly bargaining power over their workplace.
On January 23, NLRB staff in Washington, DC, released the Division of Advice's two "Advice Memorandums" to members of the media in Chattanooga and Knoxville but not to the workers' Foundation staff attorneys. Foundation public relations staff later received the NLRB memos from a reporter in Chattanooga. The Board staff released these Advice Memorandums to the press even though such memos are rarely, if ever, released to anyone in open cases.
An email the NLRB Atlanta Region accidentally forwarded to Foundation attorneys suggests that VW's lawyers also received inquiries regarding the memos' content from a press contact in Knoxville before those lawyers received the memos. Furthermore, the email shows that the Regional Director in Atlanta questioned the propriety of the Advice Memorandums' release to the media, contrary to longstanding NLRB practice.
The NLRB Regional Director's message then states, "I hope the RTW folks do not pick apart the dismissal letters because they may not exactly track the advice wording." Foundation attorneys are concerned that the NLRB's hurried public release of memos favorable to VW and the UAW calls into question the agency's impartiality in the workers' cases.
Foundation attorneys also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the NLRB seeking full disclosure regarding the agency's handling of the case and its contacts with UAW agents.
"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, Legal Director of the National Right to Work Foundation. "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."