A lawyer for the labor union that's been battling with Boeing Co. over alleged retaliation for work stoppages is accusing a U.S. senator of improperly interfering in the dispute.
Chris Corson, general counsel of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, has filed a complaint against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) with the Senate Ethics Committee. The complaint requests an investigation into whether Graham violated ethics rules by intervening with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of Boeing, which recently opened a new plant in South Carolina.
Graham called the ethics complaint ridiculous. “It’s clear what this union complaint is about — it’s an effort to intimidate people like me who are speaking out against them. I will not be intimidated,” Graham said today in an e-mailed statement.
The ethics complaint (PDF) is dated May 11, but it went unreported until today.
The backdrop for the ethics case is a complaint the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, filed on April 20. That complaint sides with the machinists’ union in arguing that Boeing’s decision to locate a new plant in South Carolina amounted to an unlawful retaliation against unionized workers in Washington state for past work stoppages.
Corson writes that, before and after April 20, Graham contracted Solomon and tried to persuade the government lawyer not to file the complaint against Boeing — including, he writes, by threatening the NLRB’s funding. It’s improper for a senator to put such pressure on an agency when there’s an ongoing “quasi-judicial” matter, the ethics complaint says.
“In cities and towns all across America, our citizens would cry foul if a councilman used his office to put pressure on a police chief or a judge to drop a law enforcement matter,” Corson write. “No one would think it acceptable for such a politician to threaten to cut funding from the police department or the court system or to threaten the job of the police chief, in order to prevent a law enforcement matter from being presented to a judge.”
An administrative law judge in Washington state began consideration of the NLRB matter this month. Those proceedings are expected to last several months.
A spokesman for the Senate Ethics Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.