President Joe Biden’s two important nominations to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) will bring to an end the Trump-appointed majority at the FLRA, the former president’s unprecedented politicization of the labor authority, and union-busting decisions that have come from the agency originally tasked to promote effective labor-management relations.
President Biden Aug. 4 announced plans to nominate Susan Tsui Grundmann as a member of the three-member FLRA and Kurt Rumsfeld as FLRA General Counsel.
Grundmann served as the chairwoman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board between 2009 and 2017 before becoming the executive director of the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, which oversees congressional employees’ rights. She served as general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees prior to that.
Rumsfeld is currently the chief counsel to FLRA Chairman Ernie DuBester. He served as the assistant general counsel for Operations and Legal Policy for the FLRA’s Office of the General Counsel between 2013 and 2019. Prior to that he practiced labor law in the private sector following a stint with the Labor Department.
AFGE is excited to see President Biden announce such qualified picks to help lead this important agency. Grundmann brings decades of experience standing up for merit systems principles in the federal government, which will be invaluable in this role, while Kurt Rumsfeld’s previous work with the authority will ensure he can hit the ground running as he assumes the office of General Counsel.
Righting the wrong
The FLRA was created by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, which allows federal employees to join a union and collectively negotiate with their agencies on issues affecting working conditions. The FLRA’s job is to implement the law and promote effective labor-management relations. Federal employee unions go to the FLRA to challenge agencies’ unfair labor practices (ULPs) or failures to follow their own policies, among other things.
But under the anti-worker Trump administration, the FLRA’s mission was skewed to reflect the administration’s political agenda of decimating the federal workforce and destroying independent unions.
Now, with two members of the FLRA who have union backgrounds – FLRA Chairman DuBester served as legislative counsel to the AFL-CIO – we’re hoping that our country can begin to reverse some of the harms that were done to workers and unions during those four years.
The appointment of the general counsel will also allow successful unfair labor practice complaints (ULPs) filed by unions to be enforced. Employees and unions were in limbo because the Trump administration had refused to appoint the general counsel, stopping ULPs from moving forward.
Here are a few “lowlights” of the union-busting decisions that have come out of the FLRA and its component, the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), the past four years:
- Imposition of anti-worker contracts at several agencies, including the Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, and Social Security Administration.
- A new rule aimed at undermining unions’ finances by changing decades-old rules about union dues.
- A new rule that prohibited employees from using official time to encourage their coworkers to contact their members of Congress to share their views on important issues like workplace safety and working conditions.
- Decisions that restrict the bargaining rights of unions.
President Biden earlier this year removed all 10 members of the anti-worker FSIP appointed by his predecessor to bust unions.
AFGE looks forward to working together with the FLRA to ensure fairness and integrity in federal labor relations.