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Unions Drop Challenge to FLRA Rule Making it Easier for Feds to Stop Paying Dues

NTEU said it is exploring “other avenues” to reverse a controversial Trump-era decision to allow federal workers to cancel their union dues any time after one year, rather than at annual intervals.

Federal employee unions last week dropped a federal lawsuit challenging the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s controversial decision to make it easier for federal workers to stop paying union dues, although the agency has not yet reversed the ruling.

Last February, the FLRA announced that it would change its policy on how agencies should collect union dues, following a request from the Office of Personnel Management. Both agencies argued that making it easier to cancel union dues is required because of the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Supreme Court decision that struck down laws that allowed unions in state and local government to charge so-called “agency fees” of non-member employees in a bargaining unit.

Until last year, when the FLRA finalized regulations changing the policy, federal workers could only cancel their union membership during open enrollment-style periods; if an employee failed to cancel their union dues during that period, they would continue to pay their dues for an additional one-year period. Under the new rules, a federal worker would be able to cancel their union dues at any time after one year.

Following that decision, the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees filed a legal challenge against the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing that the decision was “meritless” and “clearly written in an effort to harm unions.”

Oral arguments in the case were scheduled for May, but last week the two unions asked the court to dismiss the case, a request that the court granted.

“NTEU continues to believe that the FLRA’s decision and regulation on the timing of dues revocations are contrary to the federal labor statute,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement. “They will also make union budgeting and planning more onerous, and limit employees’ choice regarding dues revocation assignments. NTEU has decided, however, to withdraw our pending petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit in order to evaluate other avenues for changing how and when dues revocations are processed.”

Since President Biden’s inauguration, OPM has yet to ask the FLRA to reconsider its ruling, and it is unlikely that the FLRA’s three-member board would reverse course until Biden nominates—and the Senate confirms—new members, since Republicans still hold a majority. But the unions appear to be counting on that state of play to change in the near future, as the White House continues to roll out nominations for key positions across the federal government.

AFGE did not respond to requests for comment.