The Federal Labor Relations Authority Is Now Ideologically Deadlocked After Its Chairman’s Term Expired
President Biden designated Susan Tsui Grundmann to be chairwoman of the agency after Ernest DuBester reached the end of his term, although the president could reappoint the longtime FLRA member.
The agency responsible for settling disputes between federal agencies and their labor unions is now governed by one Democrat and Republican apiece, following the Senate’s inaction on the renomination of the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s chairman last year.
Ernest DuBester has served as a member of the FLRA since 2009, including multiple short stints as chairman during the Obama administration. He was chosen by then-President Trump to continue serving as the lone Democratic member in 2017.
But since 2019, DuBester has been serving in a holdover status, as his term at the agency expired in 2019. Although President Biden designated him to serve as chairman in 2021 and nominated him for a new term both in 2021 and 2022, Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee effectively blocked his confirmation over accusations from a conservative group that he held “ex-parte” conversations with federal employee unions about matters before the FLRA.
DuBester denied those accusations at the time and described the effort to derail his confirmation as a “smear” campaign. Although DuBester accepted an invitation to speak before a coalition of labor groups at a meeting where the unions discussed issues before the FLRA, he said that he left before those discussions took place.
With the holdover period for his previous term expiring at the end of 2022, DuBester is now no longer a member of the FLRA. On Tuesday, Biden designated Susan Tsui Grundmann, who was confirmed to the agency last year, as chairwoman.
“It is a privilege to be chosen by President Biden to serve as chairman of the FLRA,” Grundmann said in a statement.
With Grundmann and Republican Colleen Duffy Kiko still in place, the agency continues to have a quorum, despite the vacancy. But the departure likely deals a blow to Democrats, who have adopted an aggressive strategy to roll back a series of controversial Trump-era changes to precedents governing federal sector labor law.
Biden still has the option to renominate DuBester to his old post, which likely would be more successful due to his party’s 51-member majority in the Senate. Although Democrats technically were in control during the previous Congress due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as a tiebreaker, committees were evenly split between Democratic and Republican members, giving the minority party greater influence at the committee level.
But DuBester was not among dozens of agency and judicial appointees for which Biden announced renominations on Tuesday. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about DuBester’s future.
“Today’s transmission to the Senate will include nominees to serve as agency heads, as U.S. ambassadors, in key national security positions, and on bipartisan boards and commissions,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday. “The White House will continue transmitting renominations to the Senate in the coming weeks and hopes the Senate will take action expeditiously.”