Union wins CBP case against FLRA
- By Lia Russell
- Jun 11, 2020
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Labor Relations Authority violated labor law when it tried to enforce new working conditions without consulting or negotiating with a union representing federal employees at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The American Federation of Government Employees filed suit against the FLRA when CBP disseminated a memo altering the policies under agents in El Paso, Texas, conducted vehicle inspections and reviewed documents from passengers crossing border checkpoints.
AFGE argued that CBP changed work conditions without notifying or properly negotiating with the union, constituting a violation of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
The FLRA later ruled in CBP's favor when it appealed after AFGE won an arbitration award.
The agency argued that there is a distinction between employment conditions and working conditions, a rationale the D.C. court rejected in its decision.
"The Authority took the opportunity to alter its precedent to clarify that there is a distinction between conditions of employment and working conditions but failed to explain its departure from precedent," Judge Karen Henderson wrote in her June 9 decision, arguing that the FLRA had misread and misapplied case law to justify its previous opinion.
The judge's decision means the FLRA has to rethink the case under the court's reading of precedent and the law.
AFGE National President Everett Kelley hailed the D.C. court's decision as a victory for preserving federal employees' bargaining rights.
"The FLRA had tried to use this case to limit workers' bargaining rights and prevent the union from negotiating on their behalf on certain issues," he said in a statement. "Had the agency prevailed, it could have limited the scope of bargaining through the federal sector."