Federal Manager's Daily Report

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The Justice Department and the union representing union judges have reached an agreement in which the department will drop a position it took during the Trump administration that those judges are management officials and therefore ineligible to have a union.

The agreement comes a year after the FLRA on a 2-1 vote—with both Republican members in favor and the lone Democrat against—held that immigration judges “influence the policy of the agency by interpreting immigration laws when they apply the law and existing precedent to the unique facts of each case.”

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That ruling, which the Trump administration’s Justice Department had requested, paved the way for potentially decertifying the union, the National Association of Immigration Judges. The FLRA has not taken that action, though, since the union then asked for reconsideration. As recently as mid-year, the Justice Department had opposed that motion.

While the case directly involves only that union and its about 500 members, it has been seen as potentially setting a precedent for determining union representation rights of all federal employees in professional occupations. Democratic members of the House and Senate had sent separate letters to the Biden administration asking it to reverse course—as it has regarding a number of the union-related positions of its predecessor.

Under the agreement, the Justice Department agreed to recognize the union as the representative of non-supervisory immigration judges and to abide by the existing contract unless the FLRA revokes the union’s status. The union in turn agreed to withdraw unfair labor practice charges it had filed against the department.

The case is seen as one of many in favor of management issued by the FLRA during the Trump administration that are candidates to be reversed if the Biden administration’s nominees for the FLRA board are approved, changing to a 2-1 majority for Democrats. Those nominations have not moved past committee approval in the Senate, however.

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