AFSCME v. Garland

The Department of Justice reached a settlement with union plaintiffs in Connecticut in May 2022 to confirm that National Guard members on state active duty are free to organize and join labor unions. A federal statute––10 U.S.C. § 976––criminalizes military unions in the federal armed forces, but the Justice Department has agreed that the law does not apply to Guard members on state orders. As a result, unions around the country can now support National Guard members on state orders in organizing for better conditions of employment without fear of prosecution under federal law. The first active organizing campaign was launched in Texas, where Guard members on state duty as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star have been deployed to the border while seeing their benefits cut in order to fund their mission.

In November 2021, three unions––American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4, National Association of Government Employees, Inc., and Civil Service Employees Affiliates Service Employees International Union Local 2001–– represented by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic filed suit in federal court in Connecticut, seeking clarification that the federal statute criminalizing military unions did not apply to National Guard members on state orders.

As part of the settlement in AFSCME v. Garland, the Department of Justice’s position on the ability of National Guard members on state orders to organize has been distributed to all 54 National Guard Human Resources departments.

The law firm of Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn, and Kelly, PC, is co-counsel with the clinic on this matter.

For additional information about this lawsuit, see the documents linked below.

Case Documents

Joint Status Report (filed May 17, 2022)

Department of Justice Filing Reflecting Position (filed Jan., 20, 2022)

Complaint (filed Nov. 15, 2021)

Selected Press Documents and Media Coverage

AFSCME Settlement Press Release (issued May 18, 2022)

Press Release (issued Nov. 15, 2021)