08/12/2011 02:20 pm ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

House Dems Accuse Issa Of Shilling For 'Corporate Interests' With NLRB Subpoena

This item has been updated with comment from Issa's office.

House Democrats accused Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Friday of overstepping his bounds in subpoenaing documents from the quasi-independent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as well as going to bat for "corporate interests" in his role as House oversight chairman.

On Sunday, Issa's office issued a subpoena to the labor board seeking documents relating to a highly publicized complaint issued against the Boeing Company by the agency's acting general counsel earlier this year. The complaint has put the future of a Boeing plant in South Carolina into limbo, and Republicans have repeatedly seized on it to attack the labor board and President Obama as anti-business job killers.

In a letter to Issa's office, Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), George Miller (Cal.), and John Conyers, Jr. (Mich.) urged Issa to drop the subpoena, accusing him of merely carrying out the wishes of Boeing in his fight with the labor board.

"You may personally disagree with the laws Congress enacted to protect workers against discrimination," the Democrats wrote. "You may also disagree with the judge's decision in this case upholding those laws. But it is not a legitimate use of the Committee's authority to circumvent those laws on behalf of corporate interests."

In response to the Democrats' letter, Issa spokesman Jeffrey Solsby said in an email, "The committee has issued a lawful subpoena and it expects NLRB to comply."

In its original complaint, the board's general counsel accused Boeing of breaking labor law when it established a production line for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. The complaint alleged that the move was retaliation against unionized workers in Washington state for having gone on strike in the past. If the parties cannot settle and the board sees merit in the complaint, it's possible the Boeing production line will be moved to Washington.

Labor advocates and many Democrats have praised the agency for issuing the complaint, while Republicans -- particularly in the South -- have called it an attack on right-to-work states, where unions have a weaker presence.

Although the complaint delves into the minutiae of labor law, it has blown up into a much broader argument about workers' rights and the federal government's role in protecting and interpreting them. The labor board has clearly pivoted away from a more laissez-faire attitude under the Bush administration, and Republicans and business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pounced on its actions and rulings in recent months, accusing it of catering to unions and workers at the expense of corporations like Boeing.

Issa issued the subpoena after the NLRB declined to turn over internal documents relating to its Boeing deliberations, which Issa requested back in May. Democrats have called the subpoena an "overreach" that meddles in a quasi-judicial, independent process.

"We are aware of no precedent for your actions, and we are particularly concerned that they are taking us down a dangerous path of interfering directly with the decisions of prosecutors and even of judges who are charged with carrying out the laws Congress enacted," Democrats wrote in Friday's letter.