Effective immediately, federal union representatives will no longer be allowed to use office space at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct employee representation work. The directive was outlined in an email sent to the American Federation of Government Employees June 14.
“The union shall have until July 15, 2018, to vacate all offices they currently occupy, return all government property they currently possess and cease using government resources. This applies to field and HQ,” the email said.
According to Holly Salamido, president of AFGE’s HUD Council, the agency and union are scheduled to renegotiate their contract, which determines the amount of time and resources union representatives are permitted to use during work hours. But on June 19 HUD chose to preemptively evict union reps from HUD office space.
The choice to do so was derived from a May 25 executive order that placed heavy restrictions on union time and resource use within the federal government.
“No employee, when acting on behalf of a Federal labor organization, may be permitted the free or discounted use of government property or any other agency resources if such free or discounted use is not generally available for non-agency business by employees when acting on behalf of non-Federal organizations,” the order stated. “Such property and resources include office or meeting space, reserved parking spaces, phones, computers, and computer systems.”
But according to Salamido, this move essentially prevents union representatives from conducting any work to represent their fellow employees in grievances against the agency.
“You can’t have a meeting with employees if you don’t have an office,” Salamido told Federal Times in an interview. She explained that employees often come to union representatives on their lunch breaks during the day, and need private space to discuss potentially sensitive grievances such as instances of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Salamido said that AFGE is exploring its options to respond to the notice, though some options may be more limited due to a lack of leadership at the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
AFGE could normally file an unfair labor practice complaint with the FLRA, but, according to the FLRA website, “ULP complaints may only be issued when the FLRA has a General Counsel.”
The General Counsel is a presidentially appointed position, and has to date received no nominee from the Trump administration.
“They have deliberately not filled the general counsel position at the Federal Labor Relations Authority,” said Salamido.
Though HUD appears to be the first agency openly moving to displace union representation at the agency, Salamido said that the notice appears to be part of an “organized effort” and effectively constitutes a union busting practice.
“We’re committed to good faith bargaining with the Unions however, HUD currently rents additional space for employees to work outside of its designated buildings in locations like Washington D.C., and we also pay rent for Union activity space in other locations nationwide. Utilizing that space for employees assisting in housing families in need would be a much more efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a HUD spokesperson told Federal Times.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.