by Fred Wszolek
Does the Office of Public Affairs at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) neutrally report on the workings of the Board? We would hope so – but that does not always appear to be the case as some of its past press releases, particularly those issued around the time of the Boeing Complaint and the NLRB’s “quickie” or “ambush” election rule, suggest.
This came to mind when reading this past week’s Summary of Decisions that the Public Relations Office issued. In reporting on one case, Ambassador Services, the summary says only that “Member Hayes briefly dissented.” If the office means it was a footnote dissent they are correct. But it was quite substantive. To fairly inform readers one would think the summary should have at least mentioned the finding Hayes was dissenting to.
According to the majority, it is a coercive interrogation for a supervisor to ask an employee with whom he works on a daily basis “where he stood” on the demands of union bosses for recognition without an election. Board law requires that before finding an unlawful “interrogation” the NLRB must find the question was coercive – taking into account the totally of the circumstances. Hayes appropriately points out in so many words that the majority’s fingers were on the scales of justice.
Significantly, the majority was reversing a factual finding made by the judge who heard the evidence and, in addition to the two working together on a daily basis, the encounter was casual and very brief. There was absolutely no history of employer hostility or discrimination toward Section 7 activities and the employee’s response to the question was open and candid.
Well, so much for neutral reporting.
You should also take note that this is the same Office of Public Affairs whose chief, Nancy Cleeland, sought to alter media coverage of the NLRB’s Boeing complaint. Some, such as CNN’s Candy Crowley, properly reported what Boeing, Senator Lindsay Graham and anyone in the airline business already knew: which was that if the Board was successful in requiring Boeing to produce all of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft in Seattle, Boeing would have to close the $1 billion dollar South Carolina plant it built to produce some of them. Cleeland, however, e-mailed the show’s executive producer, Tom Bettag, and charged that the coverage was “erroneous” and that the complaint did not seek to close the plant.
According to Cleeland, all the complaint sought to do was “halt the transfer of a specific piece of production work.” Cleeland was improperly pre-judging the outcome of the case and was properly rebuffed by Mr. Bettag.