Federal Employees News Digest
Lawmakers: Give feds more union protections
- By Nathan Abse
- Dec 09, 2019
Against the backdrop of White House pushback against feds and their long-held union rights, many in Congress are pressing in what leaders say is a far more progressive direction: To provide feds with more, and sturdier, protections.
Nearly half of the U.S. Senate recently signed a letter endorsing a call to provide federal employees with true collective bargaining rights.
“Robust labor unions are a hallmark of competitive workplaces – they lead the fight for better benefits, protections, and working conditions,” the letter, sent to top Senate leaders, stated. “The Trump Administration’s anti-union agenda undermines the government’s ability to attract talented workers and demoralizes workers currently in public service.”
The letter calls for passing a law that would make it illegal for agencies and departments to implement contracts that had not been either agreed upon by all parties concerned, or unless ordered to implement them by a mediator.
“Without this provision, unions will be locked into unreasonable and unfair contracts for the foreseeable future,” the letter says.
Major federal employee unions are behind the push, and have come out strongly in favor of passage.
“It’s unfortunate this is even necessary, but as we’ve seen these last two years, some agency leaders are determined to circumvent the law and undercut legitimate, good-faith collective bargaining with their own employees,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a press release. “NTEU applauds Sen. Peters and other co-signers of today’s letter for strongly reinforcing the Civil Service Reform Act, which says collective bargaining in the federal sector is in the public interest.”
The NTEU release called the development “a welcome development for frontline workers who deserve a meaningful voice in their workplaces.”
“At a time when the right to unionize in both the public and private sectors is increasingly under attack, we must affirm our support for workers and labor rights,” it further stated.
Another major union also endorsed the move.
“If Congress fails to act, there could be nothing preventing the administration from decimating our contracts and stripping all federal employees of basic rights and protections at the worksite,” American Federation of Government Employees National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said, in a press release. “On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers AFGE proudly represents, I urge Senate and House leaders to protect our democracy by including this language in any appropriations bill that becomes law,” he added.
Earlier this fall, the AFL-CIO—a union with which AFGE is affiliated—was one of many such other labor organizations complaining about the current state of federal employee union protections.
“The collective bargaining rights of federal workers are being crushed,” AFL-CIO stated in a September release. “This effort is being driven by three executive orders and the elimination of contracts that have been in effect for decades.”
“In some agencies, long-standing contracts have been replaced with edicts imposed unilaterally by management, which has the audacity to refer to them as “collective bargaining agreements,” the union noted.
“[The] destruction of workers’ rights to participate in unions and engage in collective bargaining is being systematically destroyed, and federal workers cannot and shouldn’t have to wait years for a court outcome,” AFL-CIO said. “Congress must intervene now to protect the rights of federal workers by passing legislation to ensure that agencies abide by the law and bargain in good faith.”
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) took the lead on the senators’ letter—and had 43 of his fellows in the upper chamber sign. The House has already approved legislation that would provide such protection.