A Voice of Justice

AALJ - A Voice for Justice

The Association of Administrative Law Judges 

A Voice for Justice and for Judges

As independent judicial officers with unique responsibilities, the Administrative Law Judges working for the Social Security Administration (SSA) decided in 1971 to form a professional organization:  the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ).

The AALJ provides professional training and advocates before Congress and other policy-making bodies.  We also negotiate our terms and conditions of employment with SSA.  

Can Federal judges join a union?  Yes.  In 1999, after the Social Security Administration “reorganized” our offices, creating a backlog through yet another failed management initiative, and refusing to sit down to discuss these problems with its Judges, the great majority of SSA ALJs decided it was in our best interests to form a collective bargaining unit so that we would have the mechanism to redress our concerns.   At that time, the AALJ affiliated with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFTPE), AFL-CIO.  (IFPTE also represents Federal Immigration Judges and other highly skilled professionals employed in the

Federal sector, such as researchers at the Congressional Research Service, analysts at the GAO, and NASA scientists.)

Under Federal law, membership in our Association is voluntary.  Today, more than 75 percent of bargaining unit ALJs working for the Social Security Administration are members of AALJ, helping to guarantee a unified, strong voice on behalf of judicial independence. The AALJ boasts one of the highest percentages of dues paying members of any union within the Federal government, and with good reason.

Working together, members of our Association bring many important benefits to Social Security ALJs, such as: 

  • Improving the pay and benefits of ALJs, including pay raises and annual cost-of-living increases.  We also have advocated in Congress, for, among other things, an enhanced pension system and additional annual leave for ALJs.
  • Establishing a Transfer Register, so that fairness is brought to the reassignment system.
  • Adopting Flexiplace provisions, which give Judges the ability to work at home, like other Federal employees.
  • Enhancing security, including armed guards in hearing offices and at remote sites. Due to the efforts of AALJ, SSA has provided metal-detecting wands and 100% package inspection policies by guards at our hearing facilities.  In line with AALJ’s longstanding efforts to enhance the security of judges, in recent years SSA instituted a magnetometer pilot program that has grown over time to at least 27 offices at last count.
  • Representing judges when the Social Security Administration attempts to “counsel” or impose discipline.   Allegations of “insufficient productivity,” “bias/misconduct,” or “conduct unbecoming” can be devastating to a Judge’s career.  AALJ members and officers ensure that you are treated fairly, and with professional respect, if this situation arises.
  • Providing professional development, including an annual Educational Conference, and support from more than 1,500 ALJs in offices all across the United States.
  • Presenting a united voice for due process and fairness to taxpayers.  At a time when ALJs are under constant pressure from the SSA to process more and more cases in less and less time, AALJ members remain a strong voice for independent decision-making, professionalism, and respect for all parties involved in the hearing process. 


AALJ invites the participation of all Judges in one or more of our various Committees that work to enhance our professional careers.  These Committees include Labor-Management & Grievances; Legislation; Practice and Procedure; Elections; Membership; Continuing Legal Education; and other committees, such as the Health and Safety Committee, as established by the National Executive Board of the AALJ.


“As a lawyer, you always had colleagues to work with.  I was on a litigation team, I had people to talk to, they helped me out.  Once you’re a judge, you lose that.  You’re really operating in a very isolated environment.  Your best colleagues, the best advice you can get is from other seasoned judges.  There’s very little opportunity in the agency itself to do that, but there has been great camaraderie I’ve found in the union.”