Biden Names New Impasses Panel Members
The Federal Service Impasses Panel, whose members do not require Senate confirmation, has sat vacant since President Biden ousted all 10 members in February.
President Biden on Monday announced the names of 10 people he will appoint to serve on the Federal Service Impasses Panel, a body that resolves disputes between federal employee unions and agencies that arise through the course of collective bargaining negotiations.
The panel has sat vacant since February, when Biden demanded the resignation of all of its members, all of whom had been appointed by President Trump. During the previous administration, the impasses panel was notorious for its draconian pro-management rulings, often unilaterally imposing provisions of union contracts that veered to the right of agencies’ proposals on subjects like telework, official time and other issues. Appointments to the impasses panel do not require Senate confirmation.
Chairing the latest iteration of the panel will be Martin Malin, an employment law professor emeritus at Chicago-Kent College of Law and former panel member during the Obama administration. Malin also served as national chairman of labor relations and employment law for the Association of American Law Schools.
Biden’s choices to serve on the impasses panel represent somewhat of a swing of the pendulum compared to the Trump administration’s, which controversially included a number of overtly anti-organized labor partisans, one of whom continued to pursue litigation against unions while serving on the board. Several of Biden’s appointees were previously union leaders or served as attorneys representing public sector labor groups: Jeanne Charles was a lawyer for a federal employee union in Chicago before becoming an arbitrator on public and private sector employment cases; Howard Friedman was president of the National Treasury Employees Union’s chapter representing U.S. Patent and Trademark Office employees; Wynter Patrice Allen was an attorney with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; and Pamela Schwartz is a former president of the Patent Office Professional Association.
Making up the rest of the panel’s membership are individuals whose career has been primarily in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, including a number of ex-panel members returning to the job. Edward Hartfield will serve a third stint on the panel, Mark Gaston Pearce is an arbitrator for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Workers’ Rights Institute, Joseph Slater is a longtime law professor and scholar on labor law, and Biden’s appointment marks Marvin Johnson’s fourth appointment to the panel.
Tamiko Watkins currently serves as assistant general counsel for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and has experience representing the U.S. Navy in labor litigation.
A major complaint levied against the previous administration’s choices for impasses panel members was the lack of appointees with experience in dispute resolution and arbitration.
Federal employee unions, who urged Biden to name new members to the panel last month, citing a growing backlog of cases, applauded the president’s choices to serve on the panel, and said they were hopeful the new members would restore the panel’s reputation as a “neutral mediator.”
“[These appointees’] experience in federal labor-management relations make them well-qualified for their role in reaching fair resolutions to bargaining impasses,” said National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon. “During the previous administration, the FSIP was often hostile toward the role unions play in federal government operations and issued an overwhelming majority of opinions that favored management. The FSIP was in dire need of objective labor relations professionals and this new list of appointees meets that standard.”
“AFGE strongly supports President Biden’s selections to the Federal Service Impasses Panel,” said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “We are confident these members will fairly resolve labor disputes between unions and agencies and restore dignity and fairness to the panel and its important work on behalf of federal employees.”