A district court judge ruled Aug. 25 that significant portions of three executive orders targeting unions and employee removal procedures violate the original intent of Congress in the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute and overstep presidential power.
“There is no dispute that the principle mission of the FSLMRS is to protect the collective bargaining rights of federal workers, based on Congress’s clear and unequivocal finding that ‘labor organizations and collective bargaining in the civil service are in the public interest,’ ” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ruling said.
“This court has concluded that many of the challenged provisions of the orders at issue here effectively reduce the scope of the right to bargain collectively as Congress has crafted it or impair the ability of agency officials to bargain in good faith as Congress has directed, and therefore cannot be sustained.”
President Donald Trump signed the executive orders in May 2018 to limit federal employee use of official time, call for the renegotiation of bargaining agreements with federal unions and make it easier for agencies to fire poor-performing employees.
Federal unions were quick to sue over the executive orders, claiming that they interfered with the legal statute that enabled them to operate.
On official time, the ruling prevents agencies from enforcing the sections of the executive orders that restricted the total use of official time to one hour per bargaining unit, prevented employees from using more than 25 percent of their work hours on official time and required written preauthorization from a supervisor to use official time.
The ruling also struck down executive order limitations on the amount of negotiating time allowed between unions and agencies, the requirements on written proposals, and limitations on the number, type and grades of employees at an agency.
Finally, the ruling strikes the exclusion of misconduct-based removals from negotiated grievance procedures and the 30-day limitation for an employee to demonstrate acceptable performance.
“Now that the judge has issued her decision, I urge all agencies that have attempted to enforce this illegal executive order to restore all previously negotiated contracts and to bargain in good faith with employee representatives on any future changes as required under the law,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr.
A number of agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Department of Health and Human Services had already started initiatives to evict unions from agency offices and to renegotiate contracts.
Members of Congress from both parties, who initially called on Trump to rescind the orders, applauded the judge’s ruling.
“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for federal employees. President Trump’s executive orders, which were issued in May under the guise of reforming the federal government, would have been devastating for the federal workforce by targeting hardworking civil servants and undermining the right of employees to engage in union activities on official time,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
“We are heartened by the judge’s ruling and by the huge outpouring of support shown to federal workers by lawmakers from both parties, fellow union workers and compassionate citizens across the country,” Cox said.
“Our members go to work every single day to serve the American people, and they deserve all the rights and protections afforded to them by our Founding Fathers.”
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.