The American Federation of Government Employees and other federal employee unions are opposed to Bird's nomination and say she has improperly advised management during negotiations with VA.

The American Federation of Government Employees and other federal employee unions are opposed to Bird's nomination and say she has improperly advised management during negotiations with VA. Flickr user AFGE

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Senate Panel Advances Key Labor Authority Nominee

One week following Catherine Bird’s confirmation hearing, a key committee voted along party lines in favor of her nomination.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Catherine Bird to be general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

The White House announced in March that President Trump would nominate Bird to the post, which has been vacant for the entirety of his term in office. The general counsel at the FLRA vets unfair labor practice complaints before forwarding them to the FLRA board for adjudication.

The committee reported Bird favorably by an 8-5 vote, with all Democrats on the panel opposing her nomination.

During her hearing last week, Bird acknowledged that she lacked any formal experience in practicing federal labor law, but touted her participation on behalf of management in contract negotiations between the Health and Human Services Department and the National Treasury Employees Union as a qualification for the position. NTEU has an unfair labor practice complaint pending against HHS and Bird over what union officials believe to be bad faith bargaining in those negotiations.

NTEU and other federal labor unions have announced their opposition to Bird’s nomination. Bird is also accused of improperly advising management negotiators at the Veterans Affairs Department during their talks with the American Federation of Government Employees. At last week’s hearing, Bird acknowledged her informal involvement in those negotiations, but suggested it was brief and said she did not believe it was improper.

“I provided brief support to the VA management team as somewhat of a consultant to them to provide experience and knowledge for a short period of time,” she said. “[I] was—there was a detail in place to the VA, but no, I was not officially a part of the VA bargaining team, just more of a consulting role.”

It is unclear when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might bring Bird’s nomination to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.

(Image via Flickr user AFGE)