By Fred Wszolek
The harassment of America’s largest exporter, the Boeing Company, by a frivolous complaint filed against it by the Acting General Counsel (AGC) of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Lafe Solomon was a headline throughout the country. It undoubtedly cost Boeing hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions of dollars – in legal fees, and countless hours of management time and talent before the union withdrew its charge (some suggest due to White House pressure) and the NLRB voluntarily dismissed its complaint.
By doing so the Board avoided the eventual embarrassment of a scathing circuit court decision against it. This happened while Lafe Solmon remained free to threaten American employers with similar complaints – which he did when announcing the agency’s dismissal.
What doesn’t reach the front page are the frivolous complaints filed by the NLRB against small business. Some are far less able than Boeing to defend themselves against a federal bureaucracy flush with taxpayer dollars.
One such case came to our attention yesterday.
In Boch Honda, the AGC alleged that the employer was guilty of unfair labor practices for making truthful statements to its employees, one a negative comment in an otherwise favorable evaluation of a union shop steward. The evaluation was such that the shop steward received a pay raise. The administrative law judge who dismissed the complaint after a hearing made a point of saying that not even the Board can infringe on an employer’s First Amendment free speech rights. As for the evaluation, the judge concluded: “it is impossible for me to imagine that these comments could possibly ‘chill’ Klansek’s (or any other employees’) ability to engage in union or protected concerted activity” as alleged by the AGC.
The Boch Honda complaint was obviously pushed by a union frustrated by its loss of both a decertification election and a second election after that. But the facts would have been well known to the NLRB’s Regional Office that issued the complaint after it investigated the union’s charge. Perhaps the employer will file for attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
Query: How many other frivolous complaints are filed against American companies by an out-of-the-mainstream NLRB who, unlike Boch Honda, cave in and settle with the agency because they cannot afford the time and dollars to defend themselves?