The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is a tiny agency tasked with resolving labor-management issues involving more than 2 million federal employees. These issues range from unfair labor practices (ULP) to arbitration appeals to union elections. Federal employee unions go to the FLRA to challenge agencies’ unfair practices or failures to follow their own policies, among other things.
But since the President took office, the FLRA’s mission has been weakened as part of the administration’s systematic efforts to undermine federal employees’ workplace rights and their unions.
First, the administration refused to appoint a General Counsel to the FLRA, putting employees who have been wronged in limbo. Without a General Counsel, the agency cannot enforce its own findings. Case in point: Our union recently won a ULP case in which the Education Department was found to have engaged in an unlawful unilateral implementation of a labor-management “contract.” The Education Department has refused to comply, using the FLRA’s lack of a General Counsel as an excuse to get away with their union-busting activities.
Now, the Trump administration is doubling down on its undermining of federal employees’ rights by closing FLRA’s regional office in Dallas, Texas, effective Sept. 21. Texas has the second largest number of federal employees outside of the Washington, D.C. area.
“Considered in this context alone, the decision defies logic,” said FLRA Member Ernie DuBester, who disagreed with the closure and wrote a strongly-worded dissent explaining why the closure would undermine the agency’s mission. “This is especially true given that the decision was made without any apparent outreach to stakeholders. Any serious consideration of the FLRA's mission and its delivery of services to the parties demands that there be some kind of outreach BEFORE such a decision was made.”
The FLRA has seven regional offices and a headquarters in Washington, D.C. Its tiny workforce, which has been reduced by more than 55% since 2000 – from 215 to a little over 100 today, serves federal employees in the U.S. and overseas.
In the announcement of the closure in the Federal Register, the administration cited the usual reasons of staffing, budgets, and costs, ignoring the fact that the FLRA has been through two decades of cost-saving measures, including office space reduction at headquarters and five regional offices.
“What a shame,” DuBester continued. “Nobody knows better than OMB (and Congress) the recent record of the FLRA in saving the government significant dollars.”
DuBester was joined by eight retired FLRA regional directors in voicing opposition to the closure of the Dallas office. They also opposed the proposed closure of the Boston regional office for the same reasons.
Justice delayed is justice denied
FLRA cases are likely to soar due to the administration’s anti-union policies and practices. Without enough staffers and resources to handle the cases, employees’ lawful rights will not be protected. And that’s exactly what the administration wants.