Patrick Pizzella Named Acting FLRA Chairman

Patrick Pizzella has been named as the Acting Chairman of the FLRA.

The new Acting Chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is Patrick Pizzella. He was designated by President Trump as Acting FLRA Chairman on January 23, 2017.

About Patrick Pizzella

Pizzella became an FLRA Member in November 2013 after being nominated by President Barack Obama. Pizzella has worked in six different agencies, most recently as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Administration and Management at the Department of Labor from 2001 to 2009. Prior to that he was Principal at Patrick Pizzella, LLC, a position he held since 2009.  He  initially came to Washington, DC during the Reagan administration.

About the FLRA

The other FLRA Member, Ernest DuBester, is a former union attorney and legislative counsel for the AFL-CIO. It is not known if DuBester will remain as a Member of the FLRA.

There is also a vacant position at the FLRA now.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent federal agency created by the federal labor relations statute. The labor relations law provides the legal foundation for federal employees to select a union as a representative for all employees in the bargaining unit and to negotiate a labor contract.

The FLRA has three full-time Members appointed for five-year terms by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The FLRA investigates and decides allegations of unfair labor practices, union representation issues, exceptions to grievance arbitration awards, and decides whether a subject is one that can be bargained between an agency and a labor union within the language of the labor relations law.

Official Time for Union Representatives is a Problem

Pizzella has previously stated that he sees “official time” for union representatives as a significant issue before the Authority. “Official time” is time spent by a union representative representing a federal employee union. The employee continues to receive full federal pay and benefits when considered to be on official time.

It is a “big issue” that is recurs in various forms. This matter has been the subject of proposed legislation and controversy as reported on Pizzella has been aware of the controversy and the cost to the government of the use of official time by union representatives in his role as a management official.

Coincidentally or not, official time use by union representatives has also been an issue in Congress and cited as one of the areas that may be targeted for change in the new Congress. (See Federal Employee Unions and Election Consequences)

Frivolous Cases in Federal Labor Relations

Pizzella has also noted that many cases in the federal labor relations program are frivolous.

“Because taxpayers are footing the bill—there is no shortage of cases that many would describe as frivolous. For example, in one notable case, the taxpayers paid for the parties to bicker over whether the agency or the union should pay the cost of leftover food from a union-sponsored event that had lower-than-expected attendance purportedly because the agency would not permit the union to use its public address system….[F]ederal labor unions initiate well over 90% of the cases that come before the Authority….[C]ases of this nature have caused the U.,S. Court of Appeals for the F.C. Circuit to bemoan them as the type of disputes that “could only arise between public employees and a governmental agency.”

The DC Circuit court recently upheld Pizzella’s dissenting opinion in an FLRA decision involving the Air Force. (Luke AFB v. FLRA (15-1208)) As the minority member of the FLRA, Pizzella dissented from the majority’s decision in a 2014 case (67 FLRA No. 128) where the two majority members were  interpreting another Agency’s law.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47