In May 2018 President Trump issued an executive order calling for an inter-agency labor relations working group to re-evaluate and renegotiate contracts with federal employee unions.

Now those same unions have said they fear that labor relations employees who usually negotiate with unions on behalf of the agency and attempt to engage with unions in good faith negotiations could face retaliation from leadership.

In a June 19 letter to Special Counsel Henry Kerner, a group of 21 unions said that, under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, federal employees have a right to collectively bargain with agencies on behalf of all employees who work there.

“We are concerned the labor relations professionals with whom many of us have good working relationships will face reprisal if they continue to engage in good faith as required by the FSLMR Statute,” the unions wrote.

“We believe the administration, through its executive orders and other actions, is violating the law and asking individual agencies and components to also violate clearly established law. This will require civil servants, who are labor relations professionals at various agencies, to carry out orders that violate federal statute.”

The union negotiation executive order, along with two others signed the same day that also target federal employees and labor unions, have been challenged by members of Congress from both parties as an attempt to undermine existing law.

Federal employee unions have also brought lawsuits against the executive orders, claiming that they contradict existing statute and overreach the powers of the executive branch.

In the letter to the special counsel, the unions worried that labor relations employees who do not enforce recent executive orders due to questions of illegality may be threatened with retaliation to force them to comply.

“In that regard, we ask the Office of Special Counsel to be proactive in investigating retaliation (as well as implied threats of retaliation and other forms of pressure) being taken against labor relations employees at various agencies who push back against carrying out orders that violate law,” the unions wrote.

“We also urge you to remind federal employees, including labor relations professionals, that they can blow the whistle by contacting the Inspector General or the Office of Special Counsel.”

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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