DOJ Moves to Decertify Immigration Judges’ Union

On Friday, the Department of Justice moved to decertify the Immigration Judges’ Union, which is an IFPTE affiliated union like the AALJ. The DOJ argues that the Immigration Judges are not an appropriate bargaining unit because they are management officials. You can read more about it here. We offer our full support to their president, Ashley Tabadoor, and all Immigration Judges. This action illustrates the hostile environment unions in the federal sector face.

In the Charles Hall blog yesterday, it was asked, “Does the Move to Decertify Immigration Judges’ Union Have Implications for Social Security ALJs?” You can read the post here. It would be a surprising turn of events if our agency decided we met the statutory definition of a management official and did “formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency.”

A compelling op-ed piece by an Immigration Judge in the L.A. Times can be found here.

CBA Status

We have not heard from the Federal Service Impasses Panel. You can learn more about the negotiations by going to AALJ.org and clicking on 2019 CBA negotiations. There you can find video, podcasts, and both sides’ initial and last best offers.

I can tell you as a federal sector labor attorney who has worked at the Federal Labor Relations Authority and on behalf of federal agencies, what is happening now has never happened in the federal sector. We are in unprecedented times. There is a government-wide attempt to eliminate all federal sector labor unions. We have been strategic in all we have done in negotiations. Remember, the Impasses Panel awarded SSA total discretion over AFGE employees’ telework, as well as eliminated 200,000 hours of the Union’s official time. Click here for the story. This was in no way a normal contract negotiation and we had to adjust accordingly to survive.

Our strategy and our last best offers were drafted with the guidance of leading federal sector attorney and former FLRA general counsel Joe Swerdzewski’s input and expertise. We carefully studied the current Federal Service Impasses Panel decisions.

Telework

I receive the most questions about telework and reassignments. Government wide there has been an attempt to eliminate telework. Our last best offer relies on the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, and provides for the ability to telework on all non-hearing days. Our last best offer would mean that your telework is not tied to a production quota. If there was no proof that telework harmed your production, you would not be removed from telework. This is, actually, how telework is supposed to operate under the relevant statute. In our last best offer, it states, “Judges will be allowed to telework on non-hearing days unless doing so results in reduced productivity, the operational needs of the agency materially change requiring greater attendance on non-hearing days or the Agency directs attendance for mandatory trainings and/or meetings.”

Reassignment Register

In this climate, there was no rational belief that we could hold onto the reassignment register. We knew it would be unpopular, but we had to be strategic, and will go to FSIP and fight to ensure newly appointed judges are not placed in hearing offices before you. Frankly, we as a negotiation team agonized over this but we had to best position ourselves to advocate for you before FSIP.

Report From the ABA Meeting – Join the ABA

Your Executive Vice President Danette Mincey, along with Region 4 North Vice President Matt Martin and I attended the Annual ABA Meeting this weekend. The National Conference of Administrative Law Judiciary (NCALJ) of the ABA are committed to advocating for judicial independence and due process. Thanks to outgoing NCALJ President Jud Scott, and to incoming NCALJ President Bob Cohen, for their warm reception. It is critical that we partner with the ABA in these challenging times. Please consider joining the ABA. The AALJ should be active in the ABA and NCALJ because we share common objectives, and the ABA is a powerful ally to have. The introductory membership rate is $130. Just fill out the attached form here and mail to: Judge Danette Mincey, AALJ, 6218 Georgia Ave NW, Ste 1-447, Washington, D.C. 20011-5125a. An important effort that NCALJ will be initiating is a white paper on a central panel system in the federal sector. The AALJ has a history with this concept. Some of you have heard about the “Corps bill” of the past. Stayed tuned for more information.

Education Conference October 21 – 24, 2019

For the first time, we are partnering with the National Judicial College, and the conference theme is, “The Art of Judging.” You can read about it here.

Administrative Judges and Administrative Law Judges from other agencies are cordially invited to attend. The faculty biographies will be posted in the next 48 hours. The agenda is posted here. You can register and reserve your room on our home page at AALJ.org. Please join us in Reno!

Thank you for your many emails of encouragement and support. We know there has never been a more important time to show a unified front as we fight to preserve our positions and secure our judicial independence.

Melissa McIntosh

President