Labor Relations Agency Moves Ahead with Regional Office Closure Plan

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was one senator who asked FLRA to back off its plan. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., was one senator who asked FLRA to back off its plan. Michael Dwyer / AP

The Federal Labor Relations Authority announced Wednesday that it will move forward with controversial plans to close regional offices in Dallas and Boston, citing decreasing caseloads.

First announced earlier this year, the plan targets two of the FLRA’s offices with the lowest case intake over the last five years, and will impact 16 employees. Those workers are being offered reassignments at other regional offices or at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, FLRA officials said.

In an announcement in the Federal Register Wednesday, the FLRA confirmed that the Dallas office will close on Sept. 21, and reassigned its responsibilities to other regional offices. Although the filing does not do the same for the Boston office, in an email, FLRA Executive Director William Tosick said the agency still plans to close that office in November, and a similar announcement reassigning its responsibilities elsewhere will be published closer to that date.

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“After an examination of the budgets, caseloads, rental costs, operating costs and staffing, the authority is closing the Dallas Regional Office and reassigning its jurisdiction to the Denver and Atlanta regional directors, effective September 21, 2018,” the filing stated. “It is also reassigning jurisdiction for the state of South Dakota from the Denver regional director to the Chicago regional director. The authority expects no adverse effect on the quality or efficiency of casehandling as a result of the Dallas Regional Office closure.”

Since the closures were first announced, the plan has faced broad opposition by stakeholders. In March, 20 labor organizations urged Congress to overrule the decision, and in April, eight former FLRA regional directors blasted the closures.

“This decision, if accepted, will adversely affect not only the efficient performance of that agency’s mission, but will also negatively impact the very significant progress which has been made in recent years to reduce reliance on confrontational labor relations in the federal sector, while also encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution,” they wrote at the time. “[To] eliminate two of the regional offices as now proposed would further reduce the credibility and effectiveness of the FLRA.”

More than a dozen senators, led by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, also called on the FLRA to back off its plans. Neither Markey nor Collins responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

In a letter to those senators attached to the Federal Register filing, FLRA Chairwoman Colleen Duffy Kiko wrote that the closures will not impact the agency’s ability to handle unfair labor practice complaints.

“While it closes two physical offices, the plan directly reassigns every employee . . . to positions in the other five regions or at headquarters,” Kiko wrote. “No one loses their job. No one loses their grade or step . . . Further, by working hard to retain our current employees and by continuing to have them provide training to the same customers, relationships with parties that have been developed over the years in those regions will remain intact.”

The FLRA has been a central player in the ongoing saga of the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on federal employee unions. Although regional offices have been called on to adjudicate of a variety of unfair labor practice complaints, those findings lack teeth, since President Trump has not nominated an agency general counsel, the appointee with the authority to bring a case before the full board. Unions have accused the White House of intentionally keeping the position vacant to prevent oversight of agency workplace actions.

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