AFGE seeks Supreme Court review of NSPS

The American Federation of Government Employees has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case against portions of the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System.

AFGE asked the Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari Jan. 7, the last day it could file a petition under a deadline set by the high court. Last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a motion by AFGE and the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition for a full-court review of its earlier 2-1 decision to overturn a lower court’s ruling and uphold NSPS provisions that curtail collective bargaining. AFGE officials then announced they would ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, AFGE argues that the appeals court ruling upheld “the labor relations system designed by the Department of Defense to eliminate both meaningful collective bargaining…and objective resolution of labor-relations disputes by an independent third party.”

In filing its latest action, AFGE officials are going it alone. The United DOD Workers Coalition, which comprises more than 30 unions, is not a party to this case. Asked for comment on AFGE’s petition, a spokesman for the union said, “Nobody’s talking yet.”

AFGE is taking its case to Supreme Court despite language in 2008 Defense authorization legislation that would restore collective bargaining and other workers’ rights to NSPS. The bill was passed by Congress last month but pocket-vetoed by President Bush, who objected to provisions unrelated to alterations that lawmakers made to NSPS. Most union officials applauded the changes to NSPS that lawmakers agreed to in the conference report.

One union official, whose organization is part of the DOD workers’ coalition, said when the conference report was approved last month that if the language in the authorization legislation became law, “there would be no point in taking this to [the] Supreme Court.”

AFGE officials have acknowledged in previous interviews with Federal Computer Week that the odds are against the Supreme Court taking up the case. Of about 11,000 petitions filed annually requesting the court to consider a case, fewer than 100 are successful.

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