A key House lawmaker is demanding answers after a major labor union with ties to President Biden took steps to abolish the National ICE Council, which represents thousands of officers at Homeland Security’s deportation agency.
Rep. Michael Cloud said the move by the American Federation of Government Employees appears to be retaliation against the ICE Council, after the officers filed charges with the Labor Department demanding an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement and an anti-ICE stance at AGFE that threatened the jobs of its own members.
In a letter Tuesday the Texas Republican prodded the Labor Department to investigate AFGE, and he fired off a separate letter to AFGE President Everett Kelley demanding he defend himself against the allegations: among them that union money was used for strippers, prostitutes, jewelry and Super Bowl tickets; that officials made hush payments to hide scandals; and that leaders engaged in sexual misconduct and racial discrimination toward employees.
“There are credible concerns that AFGE leadership engaged in misconduct, as well as retaliatory attacks against the National ICE Council,” said Mr. Cloud, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee’s economic and consumer policy subcommittee. “The Department of Labor must thoroughly investigate the complaints filed by the National ICE Council against AFGE, as well as the possibility of AFGE retaliating against the National ICE Council.”
The Times first reported last month on the ICE Council‘s complaint and its request for freedom from AFGE.
Council President Chris Crane cited alleged malfeasance at the union, said his members weren’t getting good representation, and said it was bizarre to have the AFGE attacking ICE and backing politicians who want to defund the agency — in effect calling for union members’ jobs to be nixed.
Mr. Crane also took aim at the AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization that AFGE is part of. He said the two organizations, both political backers of Mr. Biden in 2020, drifted so far to the left in trying to gain “partisan political favor” from the administration that they have left ICE employees in the lurch.
Three weeks after his complaint, AFGE said it concluded a reconciliation was impossible and it petitioned to “disclaim” the ICE Council.
“As a result, we have made the difficult decision to disclaim interest in this unit. While we had hoped to avoid this outcome, today’s action begins the process of granting Council 118’s request,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley.
That has pushed the dispute into uncharted territory.
Disclaiming a component union amounts to a death sentence, with AFGE apparently seeking to decapitate the council‘s leadership and vacate the officers’ collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Crane told The Times this week that the council was acting as a whistleblower, and AFGE‘s move “to abolish the ICE officers’ union” is pure retaliation.
“This is why so many in America view big unions like AFGE as corrupt. If the [Department of Labor] and [Federal Labor Relations Authority] allow this to happen, Congress will need to intervene. Big unions can’t be allowed to eradicate those that report their corruption,” he said.
Mr. Cloud said the attempt to disclaim the council could silence other unions that might otherwise have reported problems.
The Times has reached out to both the Labor Department and AFGE for comment.
AFGE has not responded to any of The Times’ requests over the weeks it has reported on this story, but the union has spoken with other news outlets, telling them the ICE Council had been for agitating for separation for a long time.
That raises the question of why the AFGE is moving to disclaim the council, rather than just letting it go.
One possible explanation is that AFGE could try to seize the ICE Council‘s money, feeding its treasury while decapitating the ICE officers’ union leadership and erasing the officers’ collective bargaining agreement with Homeland Security.
Mr. Cloud, in one of his letters, said the ICE Council shared an email where the AFGE also forbade the union members from trying to find another union to sign up with, essentially dooming them to oblivion without a chance to fight for new representation.
“These highly unusual actions taken by you as AFGE National President, just a short time after the ICE Council‘s filing with the DOL, has an overwhelming appearance of retaliation by AFGE, with the goal of eliminating the only group representing thousands of federal employees at ICE,” Mr. Cloud wrote to Mr. Kelley.
AFGE represents workers in the federal and District of Columbia governments, with councils and locals throughout the country.
The ICE Council represents 7,600 jobs — chiefly the deportation officers who do the kind of arrest and detention work that the agency is most identified with. But at a time when some Democrats are calling for abolishing ICE altogether, that’s made AFGE‘s affiliation a lightning rod.
Immigrant-rights advocates have been pushing the union to cancel the officers’ affiliation.