President Nominates FLRA Member and General Counsel: Will Federal Unions Picket in Protest?

The President has nominated a couple of DC area locals. The author asks if the unions will oppose these nominees as “ideologues.”

In a press release dated June 4, 2009, President Obama sent two nominees for offices in the Federal Labor Relations Authority to the Senate with these words,

“As we work to confront the many challenges our nation faces, I am grateful that these fine public servants have chosen to join my administration in fighting for working families and putting America on a path to prosperity. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

The first, Ernie DuBester, is slated to become FLRA’s third member.  His bio in the White House Press release states,

“Ernie DuBester served as Chairman (and Member) of the National Mediation Board (NMB) from Nov. 1993-August 2001. Nominated to that position by President Clinton, he was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate twice. DuBester has 35 years of experience in labor-management relations, working as a public servant, advocate, mediator, arbitrator, and as an academic. He has nearly 20 years of experience with the federal government. He began his career at the National Labor Relations Board serving as counsel to former Chairman (and Member) John Fanning (1975-81). From 1981-84, he was a Union attorney with the firm of Highsaw & Mahoney. DuBester served as legislative counsel to the AFL-CIO from 1984-93. After serving as Chairman (and Member) of the NMB, DuBester was a Professor and Director of the Dispute Resolution Program at George Mason University School of Law (GMUSL) (2001-2005). While at GMUSL, he also worked as an arbitrator and mediator of labor & employment matters. He also previously taught collective bargaining & arbitration at the Catholic University of America School of Law. Since July of 2005, he has worked as a mediator at the NMB. DuBester received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, his law degree from the Catholic University of America School of Law, where he was Recent Developments Editor of the Law Review, and his Masters of Law in Labor Law from the Georgetown University Law Center.”

The second, Julia A. Clark, is currently General Counsel of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.  If confirmed, she will be General Counsel of the FLRA, an independent position often likened to a prosecutor.  As General Counsel, she will decide whether to issue complaints against a charged party in unfair labor practice cases.

Her official bio reads,

“Julia Akins Clark currently serves as General Counsel of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO.  She received her J.D. in 1980 from the American University, Washington College of Law, and her B.A. in 1977 from Oklahoma Baptist University.  She started her legal career as an Honors Program trial attorney in the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.  For the past 20 years she has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of unions and workers and before federal courts and agencies, including the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the National Labor Relations Board, the National Mediation Board and the Personnel Appeals Board of the General Accountability Office.”

In a previous article, we noted that Ms. Clark served on the President’s FLRA transition team.

Your Ideologues = Bad; My Ideologues = Good.

I’m up for giving both Mr. DuBester and Ms. Clark a fair chance to demonstrate their neutrality and not a union bias or agenda in these positions.  After all, they’ll take an oath on entry on duty.  It says,

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. “

Of course, they might face opposition to their nominations from the very union people they used to work with.  John Gage, National President, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said in a 2005 Washington Post interview with Steve Barr:

“This administration has packed the FLRA as well as the FSIP with idealogues (sic). There has been nothing fair or neutral about there(sic) decisions over the last 4 years.”  (Spelling apparently wasn’t the Post’s strong suit).

So, I presume Mr. Gage will be providing questions to the Senate committee members to expose any vestiges of ideology resident in the nominees.

The National Treasury Employees Union’s (NTEU) National Vice President called for scuttling the FLRA in an article on this site.  Perhaps he’ll suggest to the committee that it shouldn’t bother with confirmations but rather move on with the business of abolishing the Agency.  Ya think?

In another Fedsmith article,  the very same NTEU official said,

“The President is left with choosing either from among the neutrals who the federal sector parties have passed over or from those political groupies seeking a Presidential appointment no matter how unprepared they are to do the work or unacceptable to the parties.”

Think he’ll stand by those words if the nominees are union card carrying democrats?  We’ll see.

Tough Times for Both Nominees, If Appointed

FLRA has finished dead last in the government’s “Best Places to Work” in the last three surveys addressing the topic.  Now, there may be some so cynical as to believe that the union at FLRA rigged the results to pay back Bush appointees who wouldn’t let FLRA’s workers “test the limits of the statute”, a Clinton Era marching song.

We also understand that there are close to 300 complaints waiting for a General Counsel to issue or not and many deadlocked FLRA cases waiting for a third vote to resolve.

So, whatever these folks’ politics, agenda or bias or lack of same, they’ll earn their Federal paychecks, if confirmed, for the foreseeable future. While we’ll be keeping an eye out for signs of ideological influences in their handling of cases, let’s all wish them luck in a job that everybody criticizes at one time or another and give them that most American of wishes that they succeed in the difficult and frequently thankless task of public service.

As always, any opinion expressed above is mine.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.