Senate committee advances Federal Labor Relations Authority nominees

Senate committee advances Federal Labor Relations Authority nominees

On Nov. 3, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced two nominees to serve on the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) and one nominee for FLRA general counsel.

About the nominations 

On July 13, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) re-nominated FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester (D) to a term ending in 2024. President Barack Obama (D) first appointed DuBester 2009. Obama re-appointed DuBester in 2013 and President Donald Trump (R) appointed him to a third term in 2017. In January 2021, Biden designated DuBester as FLRA chairman, a position he also held in 2013 and 2017. 

On Aug. 9, 2021, Biden nominated Susan Tsui Grundmann (D) to replace current FLRA member James T. Abbott (R), whose term expired in July 2020. (After a member’s term expires, he or she may serve until a successor is appointed or until the end of the next congressional session.) Trump nominated Abbot in 2017. Grundmann previously chaired the Merit Systems Protection Board and currently serves as executive director of the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights.

Also on Aug. 9, Biden nominated former FLRA assistant general counsel Kurt Rumsfeld to serve as FLRA general counsel. Rumsfeld is currently chief counsel for DuBester. There has not been a permanent general counsel since Obama’s presidency. While Trump nominated Catherine Bird as general counsel in 2019, the Senate did not confirm her nomination. Biden appointed Charlotte A. Dye as acting general counsel for the FLRA in March 2021.

About the confirmation process

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for the nominees on Oct. 20, 2021. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) gave opening statements. Sinema said the nominees “all have deep expertise in labor management issues and are well-qualified. Importantly, they all share a reputation for working in a bipartisan manner and applying the appropriate federal statutes in a fair manner.” Lankford said, “The Authority is designed to be bipartisan and it is vital we keep that balance in the years to come. All three nominees have experience in federal labor relations and have largely dedicated their careers to public service in the Federal government.” 

On Nov. 3, the 14-member committee voted 6-5 to advance the nominations to the full Senate. The vote was split along party lines with all Democratic members voting for the nominations and all Republicans against. One Democratic member and two Republican members voted by proxy. To view a list of committee members, click here.    

The nominations have been placed on the Senate’s Executive Calendar to be considered on the floor.   

About the FLRA

The three-member Federal Labor Relations Authority administers the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, which permits certain federal government employees to unionize and bargain collectively. The FLRA website outlines its responsibilities as follows:

  1. Resolving complaints of unfair labor practices.
  2. Determining the appropriateness of units for labor organization representation.
  3. Adjudicating exceptions to arbitrators’ awards.  
  4. Adjudicating legal issues relating to the duty to bargain.
  5. Resolving impasses during negotiations.

The president appoints FLRA members to serve five-year terms, unless they are appointed to fill the remainder of an unexpired term. No more than two of the three members may belong to the same political party.   

Trump nominated current FLRA member Colleen Duffy Kiko (R) to the FLRA in 2017. Kiko’s term expires in July 2022.  

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.