Bloomberg Law
May 18, 2023, 2:29 PMUpdated: May 18, 2023, 8:42 PM

Supreme Court Backs National Guard Tech Federal Union Rights (2)

Robert Iafolla
Robert Iafolla
Senior Legal Reporter

The Federal Labor Relations Authority has jurisdiction over labor disputes involving National Guards and their technicians who have dual status as federal employees working for state militias, the US Supreme Court ruled.

The justices’ 7-2 ruling Thursday preserves the federal-sector labor law rights of dual-status technicians. More than 32,000 technicians are represented by unions, in every state but Mississippi, according to the FLRA, the agency that oversees labor relations between the federal government and its workers.

State National Guards act as federal agencies for purposes of federal-sector labor law when when they hire and supervise dual-status technicians serving in a civilian role, the court said.

The decision arises from the Ohio National Guard’s 2016 campaign to unilaterally end its nearly 50-year-old collective bargaining relationship with an American Federation of Government Employees affiliate that represents Guard technicians.

The Supreme Court’s ruling affirms a December 2021 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Dual-status technicians are employees of the Army or Air Force, which are components of the Defense Department—an agency covered by the law that established the FLRA, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court.

The Ohio National Guard employs those workers under its delegated federal authority and subject to federal civil-service rules, Thomas said.

In addition, labor-management practices prior to the establishment of the FLRA support that agency’s jurisdiction over the technicians, he said.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented, arguing that none of the factors cited in the majority opinion justify designating the Ohio National Guard as an “agency” subject to the FLRA’s authority.

An attorney for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the Ohio National Guard technicians, said the union is pleased with the outcome of the case.

“To the extent there was a question, we’re glad that it’s settled,” AFGE Deputy General Counsel Andres Grajales said.

FLRA spokesman Eric Prag declined to comment. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The case is Ohio Adjutant Gen.'s Dep’t v. Fed. Lab. Rels. Auth., U.S., No. 21-1454, 5/18/23.

(Updated with comment from union attorney.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at; Genevieve Douglas at

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