Welcome to the Reuters.com BETA. Read our Editor's note on how we're helping professionals make smart decisions.
Skip to main content

Biden nominates one-time union lawyers for FLRA posts

5 minute read

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

  • Would be first GC since Obama era
  • Adds to a slate of union lawyers at labor agencies

(Reuters) - President Joe Biden has tapped two government officials and former union lawyers to serve at the Federal Labor Relations Authority, who if confirmed by the Senate, will give the three-member panel a Democratic majority and its first general counsel since the Obama administration.

Biden on Wednesday said he intended to nominate Susan Tsui Grundmann for a seat on the panel and Kurt Rumsfeld, the current chief counsel to FLRA Chairman Ernest DuBester, for general counsel. The FLRA oversees disputes between federal agencies and their employees' unions.

Grundmann is currently the head of the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, which vets complaints filed by employees of Congress and has become more high-profile as it has handled an increasing number of complaints since the inception of the #MeToo movement.

She would replace James Abbott, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, and in joining DuBester would give Democrats an edge on the FLRA for the first time since 2017. Another Trump appointee, Colleen Duffy Kiko, is serving a five-year term that expires next year.

Rumsfeld, meanwhile, would be the first Senate-confirmed general counsel at the FLRA since the Obama administration. The position was left vacant by Trump, and Biden in January appointed career FLRA lawyer Charlotte Dye as acting general counsel.

Rumsfeld and Grundmann could not immediately be reached for comment.

The nominations are part of a trend of Biden nominating one-time union lawyers to serve at labor agencies. The Senate last month confirmed Jennifer Abruzzo, counsel to the Communication Workers of America, as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board and veteran labor lawyers Gwynne Wilcox and David Prouty to seats on the five-member board.

Under Biden, the FLRA is expected to reverse Trump-era precedent criticized by unions. That could include a 2020 rule allowing federal employees to opt out of union membership and paying dues at any time, rather than during the brief annual window currently afforded to them.

Before joining the OCWR, Grundmann served as chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears appeals of personnel actions and administrative decisions by federal agencies. Prior to being confirmed to the board, she was general counsel to an affiliate of the National Federation of Federal Employees union.

Rumsfeld was previously a partner at Woodley & McGillivary, a Washington D.C.-based union law firm now known as McGillivary Steele Elkin.

His ties to the firm came under scrutiny in 2014, when he was serving as assistant general counsel at the FLRA. A NASA employee who had petitioned to decertify an American Federation of Government Employees local claimed Rumsfeld had a conflict of interest because his firm had authored an amicus brief on behalf of the union while he worked there.

The FLRA declined to require Rumsfeld's recusal, finding that the AFGE local representing NASA workers was distinct from the national union that had worked with his law firm.

Read more:

VP Breaks Tie on Biden's Pick for NLRB General Counsel

U.S. Senate approves union lawyers to NLRB, giving Democrats control

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.

More from Reuters