Labor Board's Independence in Question

CHRIS COTTER, GUEST HOST: It’s the National Labor Relations Board suing Boeing over a non-union plant. But a leaked e-mail today has critics questioning whether or not the Obama administration is pulling the strings.

The White House insisting it has no involvement in the NLRB’s case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would refer any questions about it to the NLRB, because it is an independent agency. And we do not get involved in particular enforcement matters of independent agencies.


COTTER: So, it’s an independent agency.

But that reportedly didn’t stop a White House official from telling the agency what to do in the past. According to, the Office of Management and Budget demanded it take down a stinging press release against the Republican budget proposal, writing -- quote -- "In case you didn’t get my v-mail, that press release needs to come down from your Web site. In the future, you guys have to clear this stuff with us."

My next guest used to run the NLRB. Peter Schaumber joins us now by phone.

Peter, whether we’re talking about NLRB, OSHA, the EPA, are these agencies with appointed ever truly independent from White House influence?


For sure, the White House appoints the leadership. And the White House is going to appoint agency leadership that agrees with the White House policy imperatives.

COTTER: But even with that said, then how much independence can we ever expect -- and we’ll just stay focused on the NLRB -- how much independence can we ever expect them to have?

SCHAUMBER: Well, we should expect a lot.

In fact, though, last week, a witness testified before a subcommittee at the House Education and Workforce Committee that he believed -- and he’s an employer -- that the White House pressured the general counsel of the NLRB to continue prosecuting a complaint which was already found in his favor and which was frivolous.

But -- now, that’s a different kind of thing than the budgetary matter that you referred to. That would be a far more serious thing.

COTTER: Even so, though, they all fall under the same umbrella, and that is the fact that if it is indeed an independent agency, why would they have to take down anything from their web site if they believe that it is in -- its within their charter, so to speak, or within their means to be able to say something about it?

SCHAUMBER: You know, Chris, this -- the press release the agency came out with was really extraordinary.

When I was chairman and a board member of the NLRB, we never would have issued a press release on an appropriations issue, much less a press release criticizing the Congress on an appropriations issue.

But it is a budgetary matter. And the White House could be concerned that the agency was interfering with its budget. It’s not the same thing as interfering with agency decision-making.

COTTER: Is the White House in a tough spot here politically? Because when you -- certainly, when you look at labor, it’s a part of the president’s base.

You’ve got 20 -- 2012 on the horizon. The president sees kind of the winds of change out there, or the way the winds are blowing in Wisconsin, in Indiana and Ohio, very important states. Does he want to make it look like he’s not, he doesn’t have the -- his -- those labor unions in his back pocket, so to speak?

SCHAUMBER: Well, I’ll tell you, I can’t help but believe that Chairman Liebman, who is the current chairman -- and I worked with her for eight years -- she has a political instinct. And I can’t help but believe that she thought issuing that press release criticizing the Congress would’ve been something the White House would have liked her to do.

COTTER: All right, real quickly, one Republican -- I think it was actually Rand Paul -- said that it looks like the -- the NLRB has an enemies list, or the White House is using the NLRB to get at its enemies list.

Do you think that’s going too far?

SCHAUMBER: I -- you know, I don’t go there because I don’t know that.

COTTER: Oh, beautiful.

All right, thank you, sir. We appreciate your expertise, certainly. All right.

Content and Programming Copyright 2011 Fox News Network, Inc. Copyright CQ-2011 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.