Senators urge leadership to protect unions in funding bills

Members of Congress are aiming to squash the tactic some federal agencies have employed to impose new collective bargaining agreements on their union-represented employees.

Over 40 democratic senators sent a letter Nov. 20 to appropriations leadership in both the House and Senate urging them to include provisions in the final appropriations legislation that would prevent agencies from imposing new collective bargaining agreements unless both parties agree, or it is the result of binding arbitration.

“This will restore the collective bargaining process and require agencies to return to the bargaining table to engage in good-faith negotiations,” the senators wrote.

“Without this protection, unions will be locked into unreasonable and unfair contracts for the foreseeable future.”

The letter responds to three executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in May 2018 that require agencies to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements in a way that gives them more control over employee time and union activities.

Though a District Court ruling briefly blocked the implementation of the orders, an appeals court ruled that the unions should have taken their case through the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

But the senators argue that such a process is inherently biased against the federal labor unions, as the FLRA has no general counsel to prosecute unfair labor practices, the nominee for the position has a history of being anti-union and the Federal Service Impasses Panel has disproportionately ruled in favor of management.

“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,” said National Treasury Employee Union National President Tony Reardon in a statement.

“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 provisions in the House version of fiscal year 2020 funding legislation would prevent federal agency leaders from only giving the appearance of bargaining with unions while ultimately intending to enforce their proposed bargaining agreement without any changes.

“Now that a federal court has lifted the injunction on the executive orders, it’s open season on federal employee unions and our collective bargaining rights,” American Federation of Government Employees National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said in a statement.

“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. 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.”

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