(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today, condemned a proposal by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty that would essentially eliminate the city’s Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) and Public Employees Review Board, (PERB). PERB and OEA provide public employees of DC with due process in nearly all labor relations matters, including adverse actions.
“Both agencies have struggled with a backlog of claims throughout the Fenty administration because of the mayor’s refusal to provide either with sufficient staff. Any additional reductions will only exacerbate the problem,” said John Gage, AFGE national president. The Office of Employee Appeals has a requirement that cases be decided within 120 days of the appeal being filed. Because of the staffing levels there currently, they are completely unable to meet that requirement.
For PERB cases, matters are significantly worse. “As part of its litigation strategy in labor relations matters, the Fenty administration has a de facto policy of seeking arbitration review of every single case which it loses, no matter how frivolous. These cases are reviewed by PERB, placing employees in limbo for years,” said Dwight Bowman, AFGE 14th District national vice-president, which represents public employees in DC. “As a result, the Fenty administration is using PERB’s lack of resources and backlog to delay justice for DC workers. The proposed cuts and the merger will only make matters worse.”
Fenty called for the two labor relations agencies to be merged into the Office of Administrative Hearings in his 2011 budget proposal. According to the Washington Post, the proposal would slash the combined agencies staff to two employees who would work under the Office of Administrative Hearings. An agency headed by Mary Oates Walker, Chief Administrative Law Judge, Fenty appointee and neighbor.
“PERB and OEA combined represent the major due process safeguards for city employees against the fanatically anti-employee Fenty administration,” said Gage. “Their effective elimination would deprive virtually all public employees of D.C. due process rights.”
PERB and OEA were establish by statute in the late 1970s, and are codified in D.C. law. OEA adjudicates employee appeals for removals, reductions in grade and suspensions. PERB adjudicates labor-management disputes, including the certification of union representation. Employee appeals claims for both agencies have ballooned in recent years, as Fenty has initiated massive cuts to city services.
“The functional elimination of these two agencies is an affront to anyone who works for the city of the District of Columbia and to anyone who values due process,” said Bowman.
Since taking office, Fenty has waged a campaign against organized labor and against D.C. public employees. Last year, the mayor attempted to cripple OEA by refusing to fund the agency’s court reporters, causing the agency to be unable to hear cases. He previously refused to nominate qualified members to PERB, leaving the agency unable to operate with a quorum.
While proposing to effectively eliminate PERB and OEA, both independent agencies, where unions have had success in challenging some of the mayor’s most egregious actions against city employees, Fenty’s budget includes no cuts for the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, (OLRCB). “It is clear that the mayor has done this in an attempt to silence public employees,” said Bowman. “He is willing to dismantle the agencies responsible for independent judgment of employee claims, but wants to maintain unchecked OLRCB, which falls under his purview.”