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Labor Caucus Leads 30+ Members to DOJ Requesting Union Rights for Immigration Judges

Jun 3, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Labor Caucus co-chairs Representatives Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Steven Horsford (D-NV) led 36 members of Congress in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco urging them to rescind former AG William Barr’s petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to exclude immigration judges from eligibility for membership in the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ). The NAIJ has been the recognized representative of immigration judges for collective bargaining purposes since 1979, advocating on behalf of immigration judges on issues including performance evaluations and discipline, judicial security, COVID response, and efficient docket management. 

“Immigration judges—like all public sector workers—deserve the right to be represented by a union,” said the Labor Caucus Co-Chairs. “The Trump Administration was ideologically hostile to collective bargaining, but we believe federal agencies should act in alignment with President Biden’s directives in support of the right of employees to organize and join a union. NAIJ has advanced the causes of due process, transparency, accountability, efficiency, and professionalism in the Immigration Court. We urge the Attorney General to reverse this anti-worker petition immediately.”

“On behalf of all immigration judges, NAIJ would like to thank the House Labor Caucus and Co-Chairs for their critical and steadfast support,” said Amiena Khan, President, National Association of Immigration Judges. “The prior administration targeted NAIJ for its outspoken support of judicial independence in our nation's immigration courts and the due process rights for the noncitizens appearing in court. We urge the Attorney General to withdraw the decertification petition filed by the prior administration and restore NAIJ's ability to advocate on behalf of our judges and due process.”

“Our union is grateful to the House Labor Caucus Members and Co-Chairs for standing up for the union rights of immigration judges represented by the National Association of Immigration Judges - IFPTE Judicial Council 2,” said Paul Shearon, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE). “President Biden has made a strong and unmistakable affirmation of workers’ rights and a commitment to rescinding the Trump Administration's anti-union actions against federal employees. The Labor Caucus' letter echoes the President's commitment and urges Attorney General Garland to stop his predecessor's politicized and ideologically motivated attack on these Department of Justice employees.”

The letter was also signed by Representatives Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Yvette D. Clarke, Mark DeSaulnier, Adriano Espaillat, John Garamendi, Jesús “Chuy” García, Al Green, Raúl Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr., Mondaire Jones, Marcy Kaptur, Ro Khanna, Dan Kildee, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Alan Lowenthal, Grace Meng, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frank Pallone, Jr., Jamie Raskin, Jan Schakowsky, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Darren Soto, Ritchie Torres, and Nikema Williams.

See the full letter below and here.


 

June 2, 2021

 

The Honorable Merrick B. Garland
Attorney General 

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530 

The Honorable Lisa Monaco
Deputy Attorney General 

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530 

Dear Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Monaco:

As Members of the Labor Caucus, we write to express our deep and urgent concern regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) policy regarding the right of immigration judges to be represented by a union.  

The Trump Administration was ideologically hostile to collective bargaining.  President Trump himself issued three executive orders in 2018 that undermined public sector unions and the statutory right of federal employees to be represented by unions.[1] Under then-Attorney General Barr, DOJ also took steps to effectuate President Trump’s opposition to collective bargaining by filing a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to exclude immigration judges from eligibility for membership in the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ).  

The NAIJ has been the recognized representative of immigration judges for collective bargaining purposes since 1979.  For years NAIJ has advocated on behalf of immigration judges on many issues including performance evaluations and discipline, judicial security, COVID response, and efficient docket management.  NAIJ’s collective bargaining agreement has protected judges from unfair discipline.  Further, NAIJ has advanced the causes of due process, transparency, accountability, efficiency, and professionalism in the Immigration Court. 

DOJ’s petition was denied by the FLRA’s Office of General Counsel in July 2020.  Attorney General Barr then filed an application for review, pursuant to which the previous denial was reversed by the two-member Republican FLRA majority just days before the election in November 2020.  In his dissenting opinion, then-FLRA Member and current FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester characterized the majority decision as “the antithesis of reasoned decision making” and stated that “it is abundantly clear that the majority's sole objective is to divest the [immigration judges] of their statutory rights.” NAIJ filed a motion to reconsider this ruling which is currently pending.

Elections have consequences.  One of President Biden’s first actions was to rescind the Trump anti-union executive orders. Now it is up to you to rescind former Attorney General Barr’s anti-union petition with the FLRA.  Should the FLRA’s decision be allowed to stand, the ramifications and the legal basis for the decision will have an immediate negative effect on NAIJ and all its bargaining unit members. But it will have an equally, if not far more, profound impact on federal employees’ right to form and join a union.  Any professional employee will be vulnerable to being characterized as a manager because the FLRA decision is so broad and provides no rationale for the departure from its prior precedent. 

We believe federal agencies should move forward in alignment with President Biden’s values and directives in support of the right of employees to organize and join a union. Therefore, we urge you to rescind this anti-union petition before the FLRA. 

 

Sincerely, 

Rep. Mark Pocan

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez 

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Rep. Thomas R. Suozzi

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Rep. Steven Horsford

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Rep. Donald Norcross

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Rep. Debbie Dingell

Co-Chair, Labor Caucus

 

Cc:      Hon. Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States, Chair of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment 

Hon. Marty Walsh, United States Secretary of Labor, Vice Chair of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment 

 

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