As I mentioned today in the newsletter sent on government email, the Union received the most favorable telework arbitration decision to date. It was found that Judge Baird’s telework should not have been denied without an individualized analysis of whether the scheduling requirement is reasonably obtainable and also should not have been denied without a collegial discussion with the judge prior to the denial. You can read it here. The arbitrator found that 40 hearings a month was reasonably obtainable for Judge Baird in months when he did not have annual leave and there were no federal holidays. Labor arbitrations are not precedent, and this decision only spoke to the circumstances of Judge Baird. Regardless, we are pleased that Judge Baird received a favorable decision, and adamantly concur that the number of hearings required should be reduced in consideration of leave and holidays. We applaud all those who worked toward this result.
The Agency has previously appealed (filed exceptions) on abitrator awards which found that 45 hearings a month was reasonably obtainable and in another, that 47 hearings a month was reasonably obtainable. Unfortunately, decisions coming out of the current FLRA have been overwhelming against Unions. The Union will defend any appeal of this decision.
With receipts down, and the fact that as recently as fiscal year 2018 most judges have not had 500 dispositions, it is difficult to understand why the Agency persists in standing on this arbitrary number of 50. We stand ready to work respectfully with the Agency and come to a sustainable standard that serves the American public.
We completed another week of negotiations. Unfortunately, no additional articles were signed. We will be back at the negotiation table on June 3rd and a mediator will be there for the entire week. We remain committed to advocating for sustainable working conditions that enable us to ensure the due process rights of claimants. We recognize the environment we are in and put our situation in context. I have been highlighting the negotiations of NTEU and AFGE here at SSA. As a reminder, both unions went to impasse on telework, grievance procedure, official time and the duration of the agreement. We will continue to negotiate in good faith.
Over 150 congressional leaders signed a statement requesting that SSA return to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract in good faith with AFGE. You can read this letter here.
David Black Confirmation Hearing
Last week, David Black had his confirmation hearing to become the deputy commissioner of SSA. You can watch his confirmation hearing here. You have to go to minute 26 in this link for the hearing to start. The AALJ welcomes the opportunity to work with Mr. Black.
Judge Danette Mincey has been asked to serve as a senior adviser to the National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary’s (NCALJ) board, which is a conference of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. We value the importance of working with NCALJ and appreciate the role of the ABA in its advocacy of judicial independence. We are working out the logistics for a discounted ABA membership rate of $120 for your first year. We encourage our members to consider joining and will keep you posted.
2019 AALJ Educational Conference
As a reminder, this year’s conference is October 22-24, 2019, with travel days on the 21st and 25th, in Reno, Nevada. The save the date flyer is here. You can sign up via the link in the save the date flyer or go to our home page of www.aalj.org.
Language in the Appropriations Bill
We thank our legislative committee led by Judges Vitellio, along with Judges Mincey and Holmes, and IFPTE Legislative Director Matt Biggs, for their advocacy of favorable language found in the recent appropriations bill. Excerpts from pages 228-229 are found here:
“Administrative Law Judge Selection.—The Committee is deeply concerned about the impact of Presidential Executive Order 13843 on the judicial independence of administrative law judges (ALJs)…The Committee directs SSA to submit a report within 60 days of enactment of this Act to the Committees on Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform, explaining the process, qualification standards, and criteria used to evaluate and hire ALJs under the executive order.”
“The Committee is very concerned about reports that SSA, during recent contract negotiations with its union, insisted on proposals that closely resemble the invalidated provisions of the executive orders. The Committee understands that several of the articles still in dispute have been referred to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) and are awaiting a final determination. Within 30 days of enactment of this Act, the Committee directs SSA to submit a report and brief the Committees on Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform on all articles in dispute with the unions as of April 16, 2019. The report shall include the modifications SSA made to each of the articles in dispute in order to comply with the court order. Additionally, it is the Committee’s understanding that parties can continue to discuss open matters while awaiting a final determination from FSIP. The Committee directs SSA to do so and to engage the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) in order to address these issues through mediation. SSA is directed to resume contract negotiations with its union in good faith and to present proposals that do not mirror District Court discredited provisions of the aforementioned executive orders. If after a reasonable period of good faith bargaining has been conducted, FMCS determines that a contract impasse exists, the parties will jointly select an independent mediator-arbitrator from a list of mediators-artibrators supplied by the FMCS. Such mediator-arbitrator will conduct mediatiion and, if needed, an arbitration hearing with the authority to decide the final contract.”
We thank our congressional support. We are grateful that Congress appreciates that the work we do is critical to their constituents, and that judicial independence and bargaining with unions in good faith is in the best interest of the American public.
Eskunder Boyd and Judges Doing Great Things
Judge Boyd out of the New Haven hearing office, was highlighted in a recent news article. You can read his story here. Do you or another judge serve your community? If so, please let me know. I would love for more of our outstanding judges be highlighted in the news.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to join. Go here to sign up or email me directly. Let’s pull together and support one another.