July 26, 2019

Cardin, Van Hollen Lead Full Democratic Caucus in Urging Social Security Administrator to Respect Employees and Their Unions

“We are writing to express our dismay that the Social Security Administration (SSA) refuses to bargain in good faith with union representatives.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) Tuesday led a letter signed by all 47 members of the Democratic caucus, urging Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul to uphold the commitments he made at his confirmation hearing to work transparently and cooperatively when it comes to SSA employees and unions. The letter comes in the wake of repeated one-sided actions by SSA against employees of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) and other unions. SSA headquarters are located in Woodlawn, Md. 

“In its negotiations with this union’s representatives, we are concerned that SSA has insisted on extreme terms similar in substance to President Trump’s Executive Orders 13836, 13837, and 13839, which the unions are challenging.  It is apparent that SSA’s conduct on this matter constitutes a deliberate attempt to reach an impasse,” the senators wrote. A stalemate would force negotiations into the anti-worker Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP).

The senators “urge SSA to return to the bargaining table with IFPTE immediately and negotiate in good faith.”

The full letter can be found below and at this link.  

July 23, 2019 

Mr. Andrew M. Saul

Commissioner

Social Security Administration

6401 Security Blvd.

Baltimore, MD  21235

Dear Commissioner Saul:

We are writing to express our dismay that the Social Security Administration (SSA) refuses to bargain in good faith with union representatives.  When your nomination was before the Senate, you committed to working transparently and in good faith with the unions representing workers at SSA.  Now, you have an opportunity and responsibility to honor that commitment. 

SSA already filed for impasse on its contracts with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) as it insists on imposing anti-union and anti-worker policies. In light of SSA’s request that the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) resolve its contract dispute with a branch of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), we urge your agency to end its unilateralism and return to the bargaining table.

The Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), IFPTE Judicial Council 1, represents approximately 1,500 administrative law judges throughout the United States. These dedicated public servants bear the critical responsibility of determining disability claims for countless beneficiaries.  In its negotiations with this union’s representatives, we are concerned that SSA has insisted on extreme terms similar in substance to President Trump’s Executive Orders 13836, 13837, and 13839, which the unions are challenging.  It is apparent that SSA’s conduct on this matter constitutes a deliberate attempt to reach an impasse.

SSA has sought to eliminate references to the Administrative Procedures Act, which ensures the judicial independence of administrative law judges, while also attempting to eliminate references to their judicial function.  Given the nature and importance of disability claims, it is essential that the American public can rely on decisions that are fair and rational, free from any interference.  IFPTE’s collective bargaining agreement enables these judges to protect and preserve their judicial independence, in this way helping to ensure the due process rights of disability claimants.

We respectfully request explanations for the following questions:

  1. Did the White House, Office of Management & Budget (OMB), or any entity outside of SSA provide direction or guidance on any proposals SSA negotiators have submitted?  If so, please describe the nature and source of this direction or guidance.

  2. Please explain the demonstrated need for each of these proposals:

    1. setting contracts for all three unions at SSA to be for seven-year terms;

    2. requiring the unions to submit unfair labor practices (ULPs) to the agency before filing with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA);

    3. adding new requirements for information requests from the union;

    4. putting telework at the sole discretion of the agency; and

    5. limiting the ability to file grievances

  3. What discretion did your negotiation team have in deviating from the seven-year contract term, the grievance proposal, or guidelines the White House, OMB, or any other entity may have issued to SSA management?

We urge SSA to return to the bargaining table with IFPTE immediately and negotiate in good faith.  It must abandon its insistence on retrograde anti-union and anti-worker policies.  We request immediate updates on the agency’s next steps.

Sincerely,

Ben Cardin

Chris Van Hollen

Charles E. Schumer

Richard J. Durbin

Patrick Leahy

Ron Wyden

Patty Murray

Gary C. Peters

Mazie K. Hirono

Tim Kaine

Kirsten Gillibrand

Edward J. Markey

Sherrod Brown

Martin Heinrich

Amy Klobuchar

Jeanne Shaheen

Bernard Sanders

Thomas R. Carper

Tammy Duckworth

Margaret Wood Hassan

Mark R. Warner

Kamala D. Harris

Brian Schatz

Tom Udall

Cory A. Booker

Tammy Baldwin

Joe Manchin III

Angus S. King, Jr.

Christopher A. Coons

Jeffrey A. Merkley

Catherine Cortez Masto

Debbie Stabenow

Tina Smith

Jon Tester

Sheldon Whitehouse

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Richard Blumenthal

Elizabeth Warren

Jacky Rosen

Michael F. Bennet

Christopher S. Murphy

Robert Menendez

Maria Cantwell

Kyrsten Sinema

Jack Reed

Dianne Feinstein

Doug Jones