The National Right to Work Foundation is seeking an official inquiry into the National Labor Relations Board's conduct in handling complaints filed last year by several Chattanooga Volkswagen plant employees related to the United Auto Workers organizing campaign.
Foundation attorneys said Wednesday they have asked the NLRB's inspector general to investigate the agency's conduct during its processing of the workers' unfair labor practice charges against the UAW and VW.
The foundation cited what it said was the highly unusual release of documents about the NLRB investigation to news outlets, including the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
An NLRB probe found that the UAW and VW did not violate U.S. labor law during the union's organizing efforts at the automaker's Chattanooga plant last year, and it recommended the cases be dismissed.
Last week, NLRB staff in Washington, D.C., released two "advice memorandums" to members of the media in Chattanooga and Knoxville but not to the workers' foundation staff attorneys, according to the group.
Foundation public relations staff later received the NLRB memos from a reporter in Chattanooga. The board's staff released these reports to the press even though such memos are rarely, if ever, released to anyone in open cases, according to the foundation.
"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 foundation in a statement. "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 foundation also said an email from the NLRB Atlanta region was accidentally forwarded to a foundation attorney that suggests VW's lawyers received inquiries regarding the memos' content from a press contact in Knoxville before those attorneys received the memos.
According to the foundation, the email shows that the regional director in Atlanta questioned the propriety of the memos' release to the media, contrary to longstanding NLRB practice.
According to the foundation, the NLRB regional director's message states: "I hope the [Right to Work] folks do not pick apart the dismissal letters because they may not exactly track the advice wording."
Foundation attorneys, led by former NLRB member John Raudabaugh, said they are concerned 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.
The foundation's lawyers also filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the issue.
Foundation spokesman Anthony Riedel said advice memos are usually released after a case is closed. He said the information request seeks emails and other communications related to the handling of the case.
The foundation said an appeal is planned related to the expected dismissal of the workers' cases by the NLRB.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...