The National ICE Council says its members are sick of being labeled “Nazis” and racists by fellow unionists and is filing charges with the Labor Department to seek financial autonomy from its parent unions, the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Government Employees.
The council says it cannot get adequate representation from the two organizations, which “foster hate and prejudice” against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and have backed political candidates who call for defunding ICE — essentially advocating for the erasure of the 7,600 jobs the council represents.
The council accuses the two labor groups of holding ICE employees captive. It says the parent unions, wanting to garner “partisan political favor” from the administration, refuse to let the employees manage their own affairs but won’t advocate for them.
“AFGE and the AFL-CIO became far-left organizations a long time ago,” Chris Crane, the council’s president, told The Washington Times. “They don’t care about workers. They only care about their far-left agendas and politics. The corruption and misspending in the organization is out of control. ICE employees want no part in it.”
The complaint asks the Labor Department, which oversees labor relations, to impose a full financial audit of the two parent unions, to grant financial independence to the council, and to ensure “protections” from retaliation by the AFGE or AFL-CIO.
The Times has reached out to both organizations for comment.
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AFGE represents workers in the federal and District of Columbia governments and is part of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest national labor federation.
The complaint highlights the tricky balancing act of labor unions when they back the panoply of Democratic positions, including a spate of proposals in recent years against law enforcement.
In particular, unions have embraced the cause of illegal immigrants, and their leaders have rushed to condemn ICE’s enforcement operations under the Trump administration. The New Republic published an article in 2019 that called for union leaders to be proactive and cancel the National ICE Council.
The council says the tension has hit a peak with President Biden in office.
“When it will benefit AFGE politically not to support ICE dues-paying members, or when any chance exists that support of ICE employees could be perceived negatively by the administration or congressional Democrats, AFGE will not support its members in the ICE Council or its Locals. Such conflicts of interest have occurred under previous Democrat administrations,” the complaint says.
Mr. Crane warned the AFGE in letters last year that it would ask for the divorce. He said the federation sucks up council dues that are supposed to be used for member services but deliver “little to no services in return.”
Officers also saw bias against ICE and law enforcement in general.
“I am not aware of any other union that openly campaigns to have the jobs of its members eliminated,” Mr. Crane wrote. “When AFGE supports electing abolish-ICE politicians to positions of power and influence, that’s exactly what it’s doing.”
He shot down prospects for reconciliation.
“ICE employees don’t like AFGE and they don’t trust AFGE, so there is nothing that can be done at this point by AFGE,” Mr. Crane wrote.
The ICE Council’s lengthy complaint details a litany of clashes, including seedy behavior and undercutting the council’s stances in negotiations with the Homeland Security Department.
The complaint says AFGE leaders met with Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to discuss immigration and employee safety matters but never bothered to solicit the council’s thoughts on what Mr. Mayorkas should know.
“AFGE’s anti-ICE, anti-law enforcement political ideologies have slanted so radically that AFGE no longer recognizes the existence and role of the ICE Council, and has taken actions for the last year to eliminate the role of the Council at the department level and prevent employee safety issues from being heard and addressed during the pandemic and border surge,” the complaint says.
The National ICE Council cited reports that AFGE leadership used union money to hush up a scandal involving accusations of financial mismanagement and a hostile workplace, including racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
“The ICE Council and its Locals allege that AFGE is stealing, wasting, grossly mismanaging, and engaging in illegal acts with its membership’s money. When memberships’ dues money is available to [National Executive Council] members in furtherance of attending strip clubs, pursuing prostitutes, and funding unauthorized settlements involving their own misconduct, etc., it is evident that sufficient monetary protections and oversight are not in place at AFGE,” the council said in its complaint.
Mr. Crane said AFGE imposes “forced membership” on its components, including the National ICE Council, by refusing to let them dissolve their ties. Mr. Crane tried to offer a change to that policy at AFGE’s national convention this week in Orlando, Florida, but he said union leaders derailed his attempt.
An attempt to force a financial audit also failed.