One of the great benefits that unionized federal employees have is that they can appeal any disciplinary action to a neutral arbitrator–from a written reprimand to a removal. In addition, unionized employees can get a decision as fast as the parties want their arbitration process to move, usually between 6 and 12 months beginning to end. The law gives unionized employees the arbitration option on top of the right to appeal the more serious disciplinary actions, such as suspensions of more than 14 days, demotions, involuntary reassignments, coerced retirements and removals, to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). Almost all federal employees can appeal to MSPB. For decades federal employees relied on their access to MSPB when deciding whether they needed to unionize and undoubtedly some voted against unionizing because they had that protection.  Well, the President just rewarded those feds who have not unionized by essentially voiding their right to appeal any adverse action. Here is how he did it.

The MSPB is run by a three-person Board of Presidential appointees who serve for specific terms. When the President took office almost a year ago, there was only one person left on an active appointment, which meant that with very few exceptions the Board could not issue decisions. So, any federal employee not represented by a union that suffered an adverse action after his inauguration was unable have her appeal heard and resolved. That has happened in the past, but there has never been a delay like this. The last decision the Board issued was January 6, 2017.  To make matters worse there is no sign of new appointees on the horizon. The White House just has not considered the rights of nonunionized employees, including supervisory employees, important enough to even pick a name out of a phonebook for the Senate to consider. Maybe it will name one of the folks it nominated for federal judgeships who came across as so thoroughly incompetent in their Senate hearings. That would be a great consolation prize. And of course there is always the President’s younger and rarely mentioned daughter studying law at Georgetown who could probably use the money to cover books and fees.

So, to all those former feds sitting home collecting unemployment and welfare checks while waiting for their appeal to be heard who were fired for not doing their job, try not to wig out at the thought that your appeal isn’t being heard because another (very high level)  federal employee is not doing his job. And the next time someone asks you whether unions help employees tell them this story.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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