WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Government Employees won a decision restoring union representation for import inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The decision was handed down by the Federal Labor Relations Authority Chicago Region yesterday. AFGE, which has represented USDA food and import inspectors since 1968, challenged a USDA action that declared import inspectors no longer eligible for union representation due to alleged national security needs. AFGE challenged the change in union status of import inspectors before the FLRA, the agency responsible for deciding labor-management disputes in the federal government.
“The FLRA soundly rejected the bogus rationalization offered by USDA as to why import inspectors should be ineligible for union representation,” said Stan Painter, president of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals of AFGE. “Union representation will provide the inspectors the protection they need to be able to speak up about potential hazards, resulting in them doing a better job protecting the public.”
AFGE believes the decision is the first instance in which union rights that were stripped from federal workers due to alleged national security needs have been restored. The August 10 decision and order begins a 60-day period during which USDA has the right to appeal the decision to the full FLRA.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. The National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals represents 5,000 USDA food inspectors, consumer safety inspectors and food technologists nationwide.