In a letter to Representative Bobby Scott, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, the Federal Workers Alliance has called on Congress to support the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act (HR 2499). The Metal Trades Department, a member organization of the FWA, strongly supports this stance and encourages the passage of this important bipartisan legislation.
In the letter, the labor leaders outline why the House should support the legislation. (download a copy of the letter in pdf format here)
“The undersigned federal labor organizations of the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA) write to support the immediate consideration of H.R. 2499, the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act, before the House of Representatives. This bipartisan bill aims to allow federal firefighters presumptive disability in a limited number of health conditions which studies have indicated are caused by the firefighters’ emergency response duties.
Federal firefighters experience dangerous carcinogens and toxins while defending our military installations, federal research laboratories, homeland security facilities, and veterans’ hospitals. Inside these unsafe environments, federal firefighters are putting their health on the line; constant exposure to these contaminants leads to firefighters being at a higher risk for cancer, heart, and lung diseases.
Forty-nine states have enacted legislation that allows presumptive disability benefits for state and local firelighters. Noticeably, there is no law that covers federal firefighters.
Under the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA), federal firefighters must pick a specific situation for the injury in order to be considered job related. Most injured firefighters cannot meet the burden of proof because of the wide variety of environments and conditions in emergency cases. The cumulative effect of repetitive exposures place firefighters at an increased risk of developing occupational diseases. These are illnesses that are hard to link single events to, meaning that often firefighters are unable to classify their injury as job related and therefore are not eligible to claim compensation under FECA.
The Federal Firefighter Fairness Act works to reduce or eliminate many of the obscure requirements currently impeding federal firefighters from access to their deserved benefits. Currently, firefighters must undergo an administrative process from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) in order to receive medical care, salary, and health insurance benefits. However, in Fiscal Year 2019, the OWCP received more than 100,000 new cases, and the delayed approval processes lead to delays in employee compensation and payment of medical bills. This bill gives our federal firefighters the care they have earned without having to go through the lengthy OWCP process only to face a denial of claims later.”
Metal Trades Department President Jimmy Hart issued the following statement in response to the Biden Administration proposed FY 23 budget:
“The Metal Trades Department applauds President Biden for proposing significant increases in discretionary spending for federal agencies.
“President Biden’s budget builds on his already historic progress and continues to put America’s working families first. His 19 percent increase in proposed funding for the Department of the Interior coupled with the already passed Infrastructure Law will create good-paying union jobs and make critical investments in climate resiliency, clean energy, and conservation.
“The budget lays a foundation for prosperity for generations to come.
“This budget includes $105-billion for the Department of Transportation to allow for maintenance and modernization of our nation’s most critical transportation assets. $3 billion for commercial-navigation projects—such as river locks and dams. We will see additional funding for our nation’s short sea shipping routes. Investment in domestic manufacturing, affordable housing, and supply chain modernization. The budget also addresses prescription drug prices, childcare, health care, and higher education.
“Increased defense spending including a four percent increase for the U.S. Navy and funding for modernization of all three legs of the nuclear triad, with $34.4 billion for the nuclear enterprise. That includes $6.3 billion for the Columbia-class submarine.
“With the release of this proposed FY23 budget, President Biden has once again shown his commitment to building back better an America for the people, of the people and by the people.
“We urge Congress to fund this budget and put America to work.”
In a letter addressed to President Biden, the Federal Workers Alliance is urging the President to “send immediately to the Senate a nomination for FLRA Member to accompany the nomination of Ernest W. DeBester as FLRA Chairman.”
See the full text of the letter below, or download the pdf.
We, the undersigned, write as members of the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA), an alliance of more than 30 national unions that collectively represent more than 300,000 federal workers across the country, to request that the Biden-Harris Administration take urgent action to restore order and functionality to the Federal Labor Relations Board (FLRA). It is our request that the Biden Harris Administration send immediately to the Senate a nomination for FLRA Member to accompany the nomination of Ernest W. DuBester as FLRA Chairman.
In passing the Civil Service Reform Act, Congress made the specific finding that “labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest.” In that vein, the Federal Labor Relations Authority is tasked with “carrying out the purpose of [Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute.]” While Kiko and Abbott remain on the FLRA, the Authority continues to act in a manner that undermines the law promoting collective bargaining. Their judgment on FLRA cases continues to produce decisions that are inherently biased against labor and the collective bargaining process. Their decisions are clearly aimed at diminishing the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute meant to protect the proper balance of workplace labor rights.
The failure of Abbot and Kiko to adhere to sound legal reasoning has become even more apparent as cases have been reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A good example is the case National Treasury Employees Union v. FLRA, where the Court found that the FLRA’s finding that NTEU’s proposal was not negotiable did not constitute “reasoned decision-making.” This was a unanimous decision that included a panel existing of two republican appointed judges, including a Trump nominee. Telework discussions and negotiations will be vitally important as the government seeks to reopen safely in the midst of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The current makeup of the FLRA will be a detriment to that process.
Furthermore, U.S. Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, directed a stern letter of reprimand to then-Chairman Kiko, criticizing three “radical policy decisions” that “discarded decades of labor-management relations precedent and violated their own rules to achieve the goal of limiting collective bargaining” for nearly 1.2 million federal employees. See Attachment, November 30, 2020 Letter.
If the goal is to protect collective bargaining rights to federal employees, and to promote the collective bargaining process, the lack of respect that Kiko and Abbot have shown for precedent and the rule of law makes them wholly unqualified to serve on the FLRA. The manufactured legal reasoning cited in decisions by Kiko and Abbott have resulted in thousands of employees being stripped of legitimate workplace rights and union protections. These decisions have severely restricted employees’ free exercise of rights guaranteed by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute — even on the most fundamental of things — such as bargaining over working conditions.
The current majority provided by Kiko and Abbott have vacated decades of workable precedent. It will take years, if not decades, to rebuild these frameworks, and some of the damage may be permanent. In 2021 alone, poor decisions and concurrences have done considerable harm, such as radically expanding the applicability of 7116(d) bar on grievances. Any delay in changing the current makeup of the FLRA indulges the risk of further damage.
On a separate but related note, we appreciate the Biden-Harris Administration’s decision to remove all members of the Federal Service Impasse Panel (FSIP) upon taking office in January. We believe it is time to appoint new members. Given that the appointments to FSIP do not require Senate confirmation, it is our hope that the Administration can move quickly to staff those positions with qualified, experienced personnel to begin again its important work to resolve impasses during collective bargaining. A growing FSIP backlog halts progress on critical workplace issues and leaves both employees and agencies in limbo as they await adjudication, potentially for years on end. This delay will likely negatively impact the ability of unions to eradicate the harmful effects of the executive orders issued by the Trump Administration.
In the interest of the welcomed and admirable commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to bring respect and dignity into the workplace, we urge you to nominate new members to the FLRA and FSIP as quickly as possible. Doing so will provide relief from a disturbing precedent installed by the previous administration to diminish the systematic protections that administer fairness and effectiveness within the federal workforce.
In a letter to Congress the Metal Trades Department has asked leaders to assist the Department in lobbying President Biden to reinstate Obama Executive Order 13495 which was revoked by Trump in 2019. The Obama EO 13495, “Non Displacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts,” provided some protection to qualified service workers when a government contracts was replaced with a new contract and successor contractor at the same location. See the full letter
In a letter supporting IAMAW Loal Lodge S6 workers on strike at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, Metal Trades Department President James Hart urged Senators Collins and King to use their resources to “combat against corporate greed and the union busting agenda of the General Dynamics Company, whose untenable actions threaten the national security mission of our country and the social fabric of the Pine Tree State.”
The 4300 workers at Bath Iron Works have been on strike for more than a month.