By Just John
An employer’s bid to quash three ridiculously overbroad NLRB subpoenas fell short even though the trial court repeatedly said it disapproved of the NLRB’s tactics. The SEIU filed unfair labor practice charges against a hospital, claiming the hospital interfered with unionizing. After the NLRB issued a complaint on the charges, it hit the employer with three subpoenas. NLRB v. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, Nos. 14mc00109, 14mc00110, 14mc00111 (W.D. Pa. filed August 22, 2014). The employer refused to honor the subpoenas and the NLRB then filed a federal lawsuit to enforce them. The trial court described the subpoenas as “overly broad and unfocused.” The trial court lamented that it had “never seen a document request…of such a massive nature” and even noted that it did “not see how these requests have any legitimate relationship or relevance to the underlying alleged unfair labor practices….” Most disturbing, the trial court noted that “the scope and nature of the requests, coupled with the NLRB’s efforts to obtain said documents for, and on behalf of the SEIU, arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of federal labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the Union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization efforts of the Union.” Wow, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Despite the NLRB’s obvious pro-union shenanigans, the trial court stated that it had no choice but to enforce the subpoenas. The trial court ruled that, given legal precedents, it had no choice but to “rubber stamp” the subpoenas.
This topsy-turvy result defies logic and fairness. Faced with the NRLB’s gross abuse of its legal authority, the trial court could do (and did) nothing. Perhaps it is time for Congress to examine the NLRB’s subpoena authority in addition to the many other abuses of power the agency currently practices.