Labor unions are crying foul over President Donald Trump’s latest pick for a top labor post.
“President Trump’s pick to be general counsel at the Federal Labor Relations Authority told senators Tuesday that she would be impartial as she administers the federal labor relations statute, while federal employee unions insisted her track record in government suggests the opposite.
Catherine Bird was nominated in March to the long-vacant post, where she would be responsible for vetting unfair labor practice complaints ahead of sending them to the FLRA board for adjudication. She currently serves as principal deputy assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for administration.
Although Bird acknowledged that she has no formal experience practicing federal labor law, she cited her work on contract negotiations between HHS and the National Treasury Employees Union as a qualification for the position . . .
Federal employee unions cited that same experience to argue she should not be confirmed as FLRA general counsel. NTEU has a pending unfair labor practice charge against HHS over its handling of contract negotiations, alleging bad faith bargaining.
‘Based on what our team observed at the HHS bargaining table, it was pretty clear that Catherine Bird has really no experience in federal sector collective bargaining and lacks what I say is a basic understanding of an agency’s collective bargaining obligations under the law,’ NTEU National President Tony Reardon told Government Executive. ‘For example, she was completely unwilling to answer any questions about the HHS proposals, and wouldn’t engage in any meaningful discussion about the proposals . . . She would just repeat generic mantras like, “Well, look. This is just making the agency more efficient.”‘
NTEU last year accused HHS of walking away from negotiations after two days of bargaining, and one day of mediation, in an effort to rush the process to the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which adjudicates disputes that arise in collective bargaining negotiations . . .
In a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week, the American Federation of Government Employees accused Bird of acting as an ‘unauthorized counsel’ to management negotiators at the Veteran Affairs Department, advising negotiators despite not being part of the official bargaining team.
‘[Bird] has provided unauthorized counsel to at least one other agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, as they are currently engaged in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with AFGE,’ wrote AFGE National President J. David Cox. ‘While the agency representatives removed her from the bargaining room when her presence was questioned, she remained on site at two significant intervals of bargaining and was observed providing direction to agency representatives . . . The agency told union officials Ms. Bird instructed the agency not to make any movement in negotiations.'”
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