Federal Employees News Digest
WH, OPM: Agencies, fed unions must re-examine flawed contracts
- By Nathan Abse
- Mar 15, 2021
The White House has issued a number of executive orders reversing the previous administration’s actions—but one of the more recent ones perhaps will affect feds the most—and federal employee unions are celebrating the move.
Following these orders, on March 5 the Office of Personnel Management followed up to order that agencies touch base with federal employee unions and reopen, and where need be renegotiate, contracts made during the past administration that have what unions and experts have seen as blatant “anti-worker” provisions in them.
The American Federation of Government Employees—noting that some agencies had been “slow” to execute new White House orders thus far—celebrated the push to get moving on contracts and other issues affecting feds.
“On January 22, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order (EO) 14003 on Protecting the Federal Workforce,” Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan said, reiterating that this order presses for reversal of the problematic actions taken by the previous White House.
McGettigan emphasized that Section 1 of the president’s Order states: “Career civil servants are the backbone of the Federal workforce” and it’s “the policy of the United States to protect, empower and rebuild the career Federal workforce.”
Perhaps most sharply, in terms of contrasting the new president with the previous president on management of the federal workforce, McGettigan quoted from the Order that it’s “also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.”
That part of the order represents a striking departure indeed. President Trump took an openly dim view of unions—and federal employee unions were very clearly among his administration’s targets. The opposite appears to be the impending direction of the current Executive Branch.
“Today’s action by OPM is an important step toward restoring federal workers’ union rights across the government and enforcing President Biden’s order rolling back the illegal union-busting executive orders issued by the previous president,” Everett Kelley, AFGE’s president said in a press release. “While some agencies already have moved to roll back the last administration’s assault on workers’ rights by returning necessary office space to union officials, restoring representational time for union representatives, and revising contracts to remove anti-worker provisions, not all agencies have acted promptly.”
“This guidance confirms that all agencies must implement President Biden’s order and OPM’s guidance, and come back to the table to renegotiate contracts that were corrupted by the previous administration’s illegal actions,” Kelly continued. “It’s time to fully restore the rule of law and the rights and protections of federal workers.”
The National Federation of Federal Employees likewise jumped in quickly with words of support for the White House order and OPM’s follow-up.
“Many of NFFE’s contracts will need to be reopened to fix problem provisions that were imposed on employees over loud objection,” the union said in a statement. “The OPM guidance allows agencies the flexibility to make these crucial fixes.”
“With this guidance, agencies have clear and explicit direction to move forward with unwinding the damage caused during the Trump era and restoring respect for federal workers”, NFFE President Randy Erwin said, personally applauding the action.
“We can now get to work on resetting labor-management relationships throughout the federal government,” Erwin added. “Today was a good day for federal employees and the American people.”
As for expected practical effects that could come in the wake of the memo, NFFE, like other unions, stated its opinion that there should be many—and soon.
“Many of NFFE’s contracts will need to be reopened to fix problem provisions that were imposed on employees over loud objection,” NFFE said. “The OPM guidance allows agencies the flexibility to make these crucial fixes.”
“Where bargaining is ongoing, agencies are instructed to scrap proposals that put forward language designed by the last administration and propose language that comports with the new Biden policy,” the union added, noting a mandate for a total turnaround—even midway through contract negotiations begun months ago under the previous chief executive.
AFGE has posted on its website a list of the new White House’s actions expected to help “restore federal worker’s protections,” the union said. To view this document, go to: https://www.afge.org/article/new-day-of-hope-tracker--bidens-executive-actions-in-1-chart/