Federal Employees News Digest
WH win on executive orders—but unions fight on
- By Nathan Abse
- Jul 22, 2019
The White House scored a procedural win this month in defending several executive orders currently under challenge by federal employee unions and advocates.
The group of presidential orders—issued in the spring of 2018—were designed to limit the time feds would be allotted to improve if found deficient, restrict appeals and cut work hours available on-the-job for union business. The union perspective on them is summarized in a National Treasury Employees Union press release, as being “harmful to federal employees and their collective bargaining rights.”
On July 16, the federal appeals court acted in favor of the president in finding that opponents of the orders filed their appeals with the wrong venue—in federal district court, instead of the National Labor Relations Authority.
Three judges on that appeals court—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—found that the unions should have taken their complaints against the executive orders to the Federal Labor Relations Authority in the first place.
Despite the court’s recent move, however, the anti-union executive orders will remain suspended until final adjudication.
Indeed, soon after the ruling, the NTEU announced it will ask the full appeals court to rehear the case.
“This fight is not over,” Tony Reardon, NTEU’s president, said. “Not only will NTEU pursue every legal avenue to block these destructive executive fiats, but we will build on the progress we have made alerting Congress and the public about how the administration continues to attack and disrespect its own workforce.”
“We do not believe the FLRA is equipped to consider our sweeping legal challenge to many different provisions contained in the orders,” Reardon said. “These orders go to the heart of the federal law that clearly states collective bargaining in the federal government is in the public’s interest, and we believe that the federal district courts had the authority to invalidate the provisions of the orders that violate that statute.”
The American Federation of Government Employees also responded.
“Today’s terrible decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a tremendous blow to federal employees and their voice in the workplace,” J. David Cox, AFGE’s president, said. “The decision is mistaken about the jurisdictional question, wrong on the law, and jeopardizes the rights of federal employees across the government. We will fight this decision using every legal tool available to us.”
“While we consider our legal options and next steps, we also call on members of Congress to stand with federal workers and protect our workplace rights,” Cox continued. “The union-busting framework laid out in the executive orders and the actions already taken at the bargaining table so far demonstrate clearly that there must be a check on the president’s power to destroy federal employees’ union rights.”
“The National Treasury Employees Union disagrees with today’s decision overturning on procedural grounds our successful challenge to the president’s anti-employee executive orders, and will continue the legal fight,” NTEU said in its release.
“Since the president signed these orders more than a year ago, we have seen multiple attempts by political appointees in various agencies to run roughshod over the rights and benefits of their own workforce, which only provides further evidence that the administration is intent on silencing workers and weakening their rightful union representation,” Reardon added. “NTEU will never stop fighting for the dignity and respect that federal employees deserve.”