By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times
Rep. Michael Cloud demanded cooperation from a leading federal labor union Friday on an investigation of its decision to stop representing law enforcement officers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Texas Republican also warned the American Federation of Government Employees against seizing the dues ICE officers had paid, saying that would be a major breach of faith.
The congressman said the answers he has received from AFGE have been “disappointing,” and he made clear that the new GOP-led House will put pressure on the union to explain what it has done.
“AFGE should have the best interests of the 700,000 employees they represent in mind, but there are still looming questions around your decision to disclaim interest in the National ICE Council,” Mr. Cloud wrote. “Next Congress, I intend to work with my colleagues on the Oversight Committee, and members of the National ICE Council, to continue to investigate AFGE’s actions with the goal of turning our oversight into reforms that will fix the [Federal Labor Relations Authority] process.”
His inquiries come after the National ICE Council, the union for nearly 6,000 ICE employees and a chapter of AFGE, complained that AFGE was rife with mismanagement, including using union dues to pay for strippers and to hush up misconduct. The council also accused AFGE of actively working against the interests of its members by opposing ICE’s work.
In what appeared to be a retaliatory strike, AFGE petitioned the Federal Labor Relations Authority to “disclaim” the council — an effective death sentence that not only eliminated the union locals, but also left the employees without any collective bargaining agreement.
The Biden administration quickly approved the request.
The ICE Council appealed, saying it should have been given a say, but the FLRA, in a 2-1 decision, while expressing concerns over what AFGE had done, shot down the appeal.
AFGE’s lawyers told Mr. Cloud in an earlier response that the union had acted in good faith, but Mr. Cloud said he needs to hear more about the motives.
He also said part of the FLRA ruling undercuts the notion that the union acted in good faith.
Mr. Cloud sent a particular warning shot over a struggle for the money that was in the ICE Council’s accounts at the time AFGE struck.
“The idea that a parent union such as AFGE would misuse a legal procedure to seize millions of dollars from defenseless federal employees is deeply concerning to me,” the congressman wrote.
One ICE officer has filed a complaint saying that the agency continued to collect dues even after it helped AFGE cancel the union.
Though the officers currently lack a union, ICE has continued many of the policies from the previous collective bargaining agreement.
But Mr. Cloud said the incident with AFGE emphasizes the need for change.
“As a member of the House Oversight Committee in a soon-to-be Republican House majority, a focus of mine will be continuing to investigate AFGE’s actions and implementing reforms to ensure the FLRA process cannot be abused again,” he said.