The leaders of two unions representing Social Security Administration workers on Tuesday called on President-elect Biden to oust Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black on the first day of his administration.
The President of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 220, Ralph De Juliis, whose union represents social security field workers, and Melissa McIntosh, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, who represents judges who represent social security disability cases negotiating, said at an event hosted by the advocacy group Social Security Works that the two Trump-appointed people are ill-equipped to carry out Biden’s agenda, both in terms of strengthening social security and reopening safely of the agency after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social Security has been a focal point in the Trump administration’s efforts to phase out federal employee unions. The agency has been one of the fastest and most rigorous in implementing a series of executive orders designed to reduce the scope of collective bargaining, limit the use of official time, and facilitate the dismissal of federal employees.
“On social security, the relationship between work and management is terrible and that is the direct result of poor leadership by Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black,” said De Juliis. “When they got on board, things went downhill. They haven’t communicated with the union and once our new contract goes into effect they will get rid of teleworking. Then when COVID hit, they only left a limited number of people to telework and only finally gave in when the pandemic was declared, leaving everyone to work from home. “
Melissa McIntosh, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, said agency management had repeatedly violated federal labor law in dealing with their union.
“Referees have called their actions ‘gentlemen’,” she said. “It was found that they failed to recognize the right to union representation during an investigative test. Judges were discriminated against and caught for not providing information to the union for engaging in protected union activity. This is an unfortunate, different situation. . . Let us stop fighting the Agency and return to promoting the Agency’s mission. “
Although most political candidates will have to resign on January 20 at Biden’s inauguration, the Social Security Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner work on fixed terms separate from the President’s terms. Both Saul and Black serve terms that are due to expire in 2025, and they can only be removed by the president for compelling reasons.
Matt Biggs, secretary and treasurer of the International Federation of Technical and Professional Employees, of which AALJ is a subsidiary, said Saul and Black’s efforts through contract negotiation and regulation to allow non-judges to handle cases of social security disability is evidence in return are attempted to undermine the agency’s mission.
“The people before these administrative judges are the most vulnerable citizens of our society,” Biggs said. “You have applied for a disability pension and deserve to have your right to due process heard by an independent judge, not an agency employee who receives rewards that can be influenced or whose performance ratings can be based on performance whether they will make a particular decision in these cases. “
De Juliis said the leadership’s approach to unions has waned and become ubiquitous across the agency.
“Your attitudes have encouraged management at all levels of the agency, including the local level and supervisors, to abuse and undermine and disrespect employees,” he said. “We are now working from home and instead of managing what people do and what they produce, they are constantly watching people. We have a system where when you are away from your computer it can be shown as “yellow” and that is managed with this color-coded system, e.g. B. “Red light, green light”. You don’t treat people with respect. They’re always accusatory, asking people what they’re doing and assuming they’re doing something wrong. “
And nearly 10 months after the COVID-19 pandemic, De Juliis said the agency still appears to have no plan to protect employees and the public when local offices reopen.
“I spoke to someone today who was told on Friday, ‘You were exposed to COVID because you were with a manager,’ and then they were told to come back on Monday,” he said. “Well, according to the CDC instructions, you have to wait 10 days. So SSA has no plan to get people safe. You have no intention of getting the public back to the office safely. There is no cleanup plan, no social distancing plan, and they haven’t told us how, in the 1,200 communities that have SSA offices, they will determine when the COVID infection metrics will be to do so the case is sure to bring people back. “
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