SSA delays contract articles amid union lawsuit

Shutterstock imageID: 281684063 By Mark Van Scyoc 

The Social Security Administration will delay implementing nine articles of a new contract over which it had sparred with the Association of Administrative Law Judges.

The AALJ is suing the Federal Services Impasse Panel (FSIP), a component of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, over the legality of its decision to enforce aspects of a contract over which the AALJ had been in negotiations with the SSA.

The contract included a sharp reduction in the amount of official time judges could spend on union matters and jurisdiction over how often and when judges could telework. FSIP set the duration of the contract at seven years. In all, AALJ objected to the panel's decision on nine provisions in the contract.

Justice Department attorney Kyla Snow told the court hearing the case in an April 28 conference that agency would put off implementing the nine provisions until the end of May in order to allow the lawsuit to be resolved "on [its] merits."

Snow also said the agency hoped to push ahead with the union ratification of 20 articles in the contract that are not subject to dispute. That is scheduled for May 4.

Deepak Gupta, the lead attorney representing AALJ, said he was hoping that the collective bargaining agreement vote set for May 4 would be suspended, but the Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that any suspension of that vote was not up to the court, but could be negotiated among the parties.

In a related filing, the Social Security Administration, which is not a party to the case, said that if the case is still ongoing at the end May, " SSA will in good faith revisit the length of its voluntary implementation delay at such time as the Court deems appropriate."

The union, which represents 1,100 judges at the SSA, argued that the FSIP's composition is a violation of the Constitution's Appointments clause, raising issues over jurisdiction and merit.

The lawsuit touches on similar issues raised in a case being brought by the National Veterans Affairs Council, a union under the aegis of the American Federation of Government Employees, as well as lawsuits against FSIP from an AFGE local representing workers at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and an action by the National Labor Relations Board Professional Association. However, on May 1, Judge Richard J. Leon declined a motion from FSIP to combine all four cases.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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