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Biden Administration to Replace Impasse Panel Members

The Biden administration is replacing members of the FSIP after complaints and lawsuits by unions opposed to recent FSIP decisions.

As expected, the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) caught the attention of the Biden Administration in the early days of the administration. No doubt, federal employee unions wanted to ensure new members were appointed to the organization as they have been very unhappy with the current FSIP members who have issued decisions the unions did not like.

The administration requested the resignations of the 10 Panel members.

The FSIP is part of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FSIP resolves negotiation disputes between agencies and unions “through whatever methods and procedures, including fact-finding and recommendations, it may consider appropriate….”

Lawsuit Seeking Senate Confirmation of FSIP Members

Federal employee unions previously filed a lawsuit seeking to have recent FSIP decisions overturned. Their argument was that the Senate had not confirmed the appointment of the Panel members. The lawsuits contended Senate confirmation was a requirement for them to hold these positions.

The federal labor-management relations statute has been in effect since 1978. Previous members of the Panel were not confirmed by the Senate either. The members appointed by President Trump were the first ones to be challenged.

The labor-management relations statute reads: “The Panel shall be composed of a Chairman and at least six other members, who shall be appointed by the President, solely on the basis of fitness to perform the duties and functions involved, from among individuals who are familiar with Government operations and knowledgeable in labor-management relations.” 5 USC 7119 also states, “Any member of the Panel may be removed by the President.”

In reality, the lawsuits were a “hail Mary” attempt by the unions to overturn decisions the unions found objectionable. In a press release, AFGE stated:

“The outgoing panel, appointed by the previous administration and stacked with transparently biased union-busters, was notorious for ignoring the law to gut workplace rights and further an extreme political agenda.

“FSIP is a critical component in the federal negotiating process, and we look forward to President Biden’s future picks issuing just decisions, unencumbered by political interference.”

There is virtually no chance unions will seek similar court intervention regarding the new appointees when they assume their new positions. The lawsuits were an attempt to relieve the unions of contract provisions not favorable to the federal employee unions. The members to be appointed by the Biden administration are much more likely to have a background and a philosophy reflecting the preferences of the unions that spent their time and money to have Joe Biden elected as president. As President Biden is now in office, the unions can look forward to more favorable decisions from the administration so Senate confirmation will no longer be an issue.

Why Unions Opposed Recent FSIP Decisions

Under the Trump administration, the FSIP was more inclined to place restrictions on union activity paid for by the federal government. “Official time,” is a significant expense in agencies, and particularly in agencies that have federal employees working full-time on union activities. Under the Executive Orders issued by President Trump, the amount of time any federal employee could work on behalf of a federal union was restricted to 25% of an employee’s time.

The Executive Orders also placed restrictions on unions receiving rent-free office space and use of government provided equipment.

In response to the Executive Orders and decisions of the FSIP following the Orders, unions filed numerous lawsuits in an attempt to remove the restrictions.

The federal labor relations program is often in a state of flux. As the program is limited to operations within the federal government, it is less visible to the American public. Federal employee unions usually support Democrats. When a Democrat is elected president, decisions issued reflect the support of the unions and are generally more favorable. When a Republican is elected, the opposite is true. The result is that decisions and appointments reflect the philosophy of the president and the political favors that can be dispensed or withheld by the current administration. Agencies usually work to accommodate the inevitable changes of philosophy that result from recent elections.

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