Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Justice Department in April. Garland is under pressure to recognize a union of immigration judges.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Justice Department in April. Garland is under pressure to recognize a union of immigration judges. Andrew Harnik / AP

More Than 30 House Democrats Join Calls for Biden Administration to Restore Immigration Judges Union

Members of the House Labor Caucus said failure to act could imperil other bargaining units.

A group of 36 House Democrats on Thursday became the latest to urge Attorney General Merrick Garland to recognize a union of immigration judges that was busted by the Trump administration last year.

Last November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority voted 2-1 along party lines to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges, ruling that the Justice Department’s administrative judges were management officials. That decision overruled the findings of the FLRA’s regional director who found there were not enough changes to their duties since a 2000 FLRA decision that found them not to be managers.

Last month, the Democratic membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Garland to request the FLRA reverse its decision, saying the 2020 decision was “politically motivated.” On Thursday, the House Labor Caucus followed suit, citing the effort to bust the judges union as part and parcel with the Trump administration’s broader hostility toward labor unions in the federal government.

“Elections have consequences,” they wrote. “One of President Biden’s first actions was to rescind the Trump anti-union executive orders. Now it is up to you to rescind former Attorney General Barr’s anti-union petition with the FLRA.”

The immigration judges union has filed a motion to reconsider the FLRA’s ruling, although that remains pending. Although Biden elevated Ernest DuBester from member to FLRA chairman earlier this year, the president has not yet nominated new members to the body, meaning DuBester remains in the minority. But if the Justice Department rescinds its petition to decertify the union, the decision would be nullified.

The House lawmakers argued that if the decision remains in place, it could be used as precedent for future administrations to bust unions across the federal government.

“Should the FLRA’s decision be allowed to stand, the ramification and the legal basis for the decision will have an immediate negative effect on NAIJ and all its bargaining unit members,” they wrote. “But it will have an equally, if not far more, profound impact on federal employees’ right to form and join a union. Any professional employee will be vulnerable to being characterized as a manager because the FLRA decision is so broad and provides no rationale for the departure from its prior precedent.”

In a statement, Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, of which the judges union is a subsidiary, said rescinding the effort to bust the union would follow through on Biden’s commitments to promote collective bargaining both in the federal workforce and the private sector.

“President Biden has made a strong and unmistakable affirmation of workers’ rights and a commitment to rescinding the Trump administration’s anti-union actions against federal employees,” Shearon said. “The [House] Labor Caucus’ letter echoes the president’s commitment and urges Attorney General Garland to stop his predecessor’s politicized and ideologically motivated attack on these Department of Justice employees.”

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