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Federal Union Authority Hit With Suit Claiming Anti-Union Bias

Feb. 5, 2019, 7:39 PM

A teachers union says the Federal Labor Relations Authority unlawfully favors federal agencies over workers in a new lawsuit filed Feb. 5.

The Federal Education Association points to nine arbitration awards the FLRA recently overturned that had all favored workers.

The FLRA enforces the union rights of federal workers. It announced in January that it will no longer negotiate with the union that has represented its own employees for more than 40 years.

The FLRA may review arbitrator awards, but its scope is supposed to be limited, the FEA says in its complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit is a collateral attack on the FLRA, meaning the FEA isn’t directly appealing an adverse decision.

Instead, it claims the new Republican majority is generally anti-union. The FLRA abused its discretion and misapplied the law in order to reverse arbitration awards worth millions of dollars in damages and attorneys’ fees, the FEA claims.

Though the FEA takes issue with nine awards affecting 144 named FEA grievants, the lawsuit says 51 of the FLRA’s 94 published opinions since the change in majority have been to overturn the decisions of arbitrators who found for bargaining unit members. The FLRA hasn’t overturned a single arbitrator who found in favor of a federal agency, the union alleges.

The FLRA didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

The FEA represents about 6,000 federal civilian employees who teach military and Department of Defense dependents abroad, according to its complaint.

In-house counsel represents the FEA.

The case is Fed. Educ. Ass’n v. Fed. Labor Relations Authority, D.D.C., No. 1:19-cv-284, complaint filed 2/5/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com