Labor Department Management Accused of Unfair Labor Practice

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By Ben Penn

The ousted leaders of the Labor Department’s employee union filed an unfair labor practice complaint alleging that the DOL illegally assisted the national union in removing local officers.

The Oct. 10 filing provided to Bloomberg BNA accuses department management of aiding the national American Federation of Government Employees, which imposed a trusteeship to depose the officers Oct. 4.

The charge alleges DOL management and security were present when two of the four officers were removed, which the former leaders said wasn’t necessary because they showed no resistance. The former officers also said the DOL “confiscated” department-issued computers from the ousted treasurer and steward, both of whom remain employed at the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Inasmuch as the Department still has possession of the computers of the former head steward and the former treasurer (impacting their abilities to do BLS work), it is clearly working on behalf of AFGE National,” the former officers said in the complaint.

The DOL didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees government workforce labor relations, is now tasked with investigating the merits of this complaint. As a remedy, the DOL should stop assisting the national union “in any respect, in effectuating and maintaining the trusteeship” and the agency should be required to post a notice acknowledging that it committed unfair labor practices, the former officers state.

The filing alleges the DOL violated provisions of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. The statute declares it shall be an unfair labor practice for an agency “to sponsor, control, or otherwise assist any labor organization, other than to furnish, upon request, customary and routine services and facilities if the services and facilities are also furnished on an impartial basis to other labor organizations having equivalent status.”

Security Escort

Two of the removed officers told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 8 that DOL management escorted an officer and a steward out of the local’s office with armed guards. They didn’t allege in the charge that security was armed.

The former Local 12 leaders acknowledge that the DOL computers are government property and can be taken at any point. “However, the fact that the computers of two displaced union officials were confiscated on the same day and at approximately the same time, within an hour after the imposition of trusteeship, obviates the notion that DOL was randomly searching computers,” the ULP states.

AFGE Local 12, which represents some 3,000 DOL employees in Washington, is now being run by acting leaders installed by the union’s parent affiliate. The parent organization, the largest U.S. federal employee union, alleged that local leaders have misused members’ money, among other charges cited in a memo announcing the trusteeship, which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The ousted leaders say they will be separately filing a challenge to the imposition of the trusteeship itself.

Union Has Opposed Acosta DOL

The DOL under President Donald Trump and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta hasn’t publicly addressed several rounds of criticism from Local 12 this year. Most recently, deposed Local 12 President Alex Bastani sent a letter to Acosta urging him to reconsider his decision to induct President Ronald Reagan into the agency’s Labor Hall of Honor. Bastani said his members would protest the induction outside DOL headquarters if Acosta went through with the plans.

Local 12 has battled department management in Democratic and Republican administrations, including during the George W. Bush presidency. Many of the Bush-era DOL senior political appointees have now returned to the agency to work for Acosta, including DOL Chief of Staff Nicholas Geale and acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Nathan Mehrens.

The FLRA, now tasked with investigating the Local 12 complaint, is being run by acting Chairman Patrick Pizzella. The Senate is currently considering Trump’s nomination of Pizzella to serve as deputy labor secretary, the department’s No. 2 overall position.

Gina Grippando, an FLRA spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA that Pizzella would recuse himself from the proceeding if the case were to reach FLRA members while he is still serving as acting chairman. But the FLRA general counsel first would need to find merit and issue a complaint based on the charge, at which point there would be a hearing before an FLRA administrative law judge. Only then, if one of the parties filed an appeal of the ALJ decision, could the case proceed to the authority.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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