President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden Evan Vucci/AP

Biden Names Acting FLRA General Counsel, Ending Critical Trump Era Vacancy

The agency responsible for administering federal labor law has been without a top lawyer for four years, significantly hamstringing its ability to hear labor-management disputes.

President Biden on Wednesday appointed Charlotte Dye to be the acting general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, potentially freeing up a logjam of pending disputes between agencies and unions after years of inaction on unfair labor practice complaints.

Dye has served as deputy general counsel of the labor authority since 2019. She previously was the regional director of the agency’s Dallas regional office, until the agency controversially closed both it and the Boston regional office in 2018. She is a career federal employee with nearly 30 years of experience at the FLRA.

At the start of the Trump administration, an acting official served as general counsel until November 2017, but the position has been entirely vacant since then. President Trump nominated Catherine Bird to serve in the role in April 2019, but the Senate declined to act on the pick.

The FLRA general counsel is responsible, in part, for vetting and advancing unfair labor practice complaints after regional offices have determined whether they have merit. As a result, the FLRA has developed a backlog of around 450 pending complaints. Over the course of the Trump administration, unions moved away from the use of unfair labor practice complaints, opting instead to go through the longer and more expensive arbitrated grievance process to bring cases before the FLRA.

Federal employee union officials, who suspected that the Trump administration's inaction was an intentional effort to slow down union challenges to agency actions, lauded Biden’s decision to appoint an acting general counsel.

“This appointment is critical to addressing the current backlog of nearly 450 labor-management disputes,” said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “For more than three years, the FLRA has not been able to issue complaints due to the vacant general counsel position. This has left disputes between workers and management unresolved and allowed the unfair actions to continue.”

National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said he was hopeful that Dye would move quickly to begin moving pending cases through the process so that they may be resolved.

“The Federal Labor Relations Authority has been hamstrung for more than three years without a general counsel, so we are pleased the position has been filled in an acting capacity,” he said. “Filling this vacancy will allow the authority to once again issue unfair labor practice complaints or prosecute those complaints before an administrative law judge, as the law requires. The current backlog of pending cases where an FLRA regional office has determined that a complaint has merit can now finally be addressed, which is essential for protecting the rights of federal employees across government.”

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