Labor Authority Preliminarily Finds Social Security Illegally Intimidated Union OfficialsJohn Sanders
A preliminary conclusion made by a FLRA investigator shows that Social Security Administration officials had made illegal attempts to intimidate AALJ officials earlier in the year.
The union had filed a labor practice disagreement back in June complaining that management officials had issued verbal threats about disciplining union officials after it came to light that they used official time and left their workspaces for preparing for their collective bargaining negotiation session, in spite of the fact that this practice is usually stated in a MoU and existing union contracts.
The President of AALJ, Melissa McIntosh, stated that as they didn’t have union offices, they needed flexibility for carrying out union-related activities, for both confidentiality concerns and practical reasons. They were prepping for their contract negotiations. Management was aware of this because this period had already been discussed in their ground rules.
McIntosh stated that agency officials hadn’t specified how they would have disciplined the union reps who continue to utilize official time offsite. This warning was not submitted in writing.
McIntosh stated that she had contacted Acting Commissioner Berryhill via email, which resulted in a meeting where they were reprimanded by the Deputy Commissioner for not adhering to the official line of command. They were told that this wasn’t a major issue and were asked to remain patient.
FLRA officials informed the agency and the union that their investigator had found their complaint to carry merit. There is a lot evidence that indicates that management officials had interfered with the rights of the employees for engaging in union activities.
This finding doesn’t have any kind of enforcement mechanism since the general counsel of the FLRA is yet to be appointed formally. Despite Catherine Bird being nominated by President Trump for the role, her confirmation is yet to be done although the committee had recommended her in July itself.
SSA spokesman Hinkle claimed that nothing unethical had happened during these meetings, which he described to be a normal, routine talk regarding labor management issues. He released a statement that the agency would be addressing the concerns as per FLRA rules.
He assured that Social Security would be following all lawful processes for addressing this issue. He stated that Social Security officials were confued by the AALJ’s complaint, which was filed six months after the meeting.
McIntosh stated that this matter is expected to be presented to a 3rd party arbitrator within a few more months. Unfair labor practice allegation isn’t the only issue between Social Security and the union. AALJ has also filed internal grievances stating that the agency was engaging in bad-faith bargaining, as it had effectively rushed the entire process to the FSIP.
In addition, the impasses panel is also looking over the union contract. However, McIntosh stated that the union holds that this panel has no jurisdiction as the law that determines the appointment for its members is unconstitutional. This argument is similar to the AFGE’s position on this matter. It recently filed a lawsuit contending that impasses panel members should be first confirmed by Senate members due to the nature of their job.
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