Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at a dinner Dinner on July 17, 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His nomination comes at a time when SSA is at a crossroads.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at a dinner Dinner on July 17, 2015, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His nomination comes at a time when SSA is at a crossroads. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Nation’s largest federal employee union endorses O'Malley to lead Social Security

News of the American Federation of Government Employees’ support for former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Biden’s pick to lead the embattled agency, comes amid a détente between the union and management, whose relationship has been acrimonious in recent years.

The nation’s largest federal employee union last week endorsed President Biden’s pick to lead the Social Security Administration, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Following a two-year period in which the agency was led by Acting Administrator Kilolo Kijakazi, spurred by Biden’s dismissal of Trump holdover Andrew Saul in 2021, the president tapped the former governor and erstwhile presidential candidate to run the agency, pending a Senate confirmation vote.

In a press release Friday, the American Federation of Government Employees, who represents SSA employees, threw its support behind the new nominee. The Senate Finance Committee has yet to schedule a confirmation hearing for O’Malley.

“No federal agency reaches as many Americans as the Social Security Administration,” said Rich Couture, president of AFGE Council 215, which represents employees in the Office of Hearing Operations. “SSA deserves a leader with full authority to implement a positive vision that will simultaneously improve public service and employee working conditions. Gov. O’Malley is that leader.”

And Jessica LaPointe, president of AFGE Council 220, which represents agency field office and teleservice center workers, said O’Malley’s previous experience establishing data analytics tools in state governmental agencies is critical to rejuvenating SSA, which has struggled to meet customer demand in recent years amid growing beneficiaries and declining budgets and employee headcounts.

“Based on his prior commitments to strengthen and expand Social Security and his successful, data-driven approach to improving government at both the city and state level, I am confident that Gov. O’Malley will be able to lift the Social Security Administration out of its current crisis of low employee morale, damaging attrition and customer service complaints,” LaPointe said. “We are confident that will Gov. O’Malley as commissioner, we can get to work immediately so that the agency can thrive once again and provide the American people with the Social Security services they need and deserve.”

O’Malley’s nomination comes at a time when the agency he was chosen to lead is at a crossroads. House Republicans and the White House differ on how much to fund SSA in fiscal 2024 to the tune of nearly $2 billion, which administration officials are is needed to avert calamity within the agency. The union, for its part, estimates that more than $17 billion—$2 billion more than Biden request—is needed to shore up the agency’s workforce and operating procedures.

And following years of conflict and deadlock at the bargaining table, AFGE and Social Security management reached an agreement last month to update a portion of their union contract, which includes commitments to set up regular union-management cooperation council meetings both at the national level and within the agency’s subcomponents, as well as plans to improve training for new employees and to boost some benefits like child-care subsidies.