Within days of his inauguration, President Joe Biden ordered federal agencies to reverse the collective bargaining stances they took under the Trump administration. But changed policy has not necessarily translated to undoing past actions taken under the previous administration.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority issued a hearing notice July 27 on the need to address labor relations actions taken at the Department of Education from 2018 to 2020 that have yet to be resolved.
The hearing notice consolidates 14 charges that the American Federation of Government Employees filed against the agency for labor practices taken over the past few years, which include substantial changes to conditions of employment without union negotiation, refusals to recognize union delegations of authority, and denials of official time requests by union representatives.
The FLRA hearing notice gives the agency until Aug. 23 to respond to the charges and scheduled a hearing on the consolidated issues for Nov. 2.
“The Department of Education as of this date has failed to remedy the harm done to employees and our union through the illegal actions undertaken by the Trump administration,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a news release.
“Unless current department leaders come to the table and settle these outstanding labor violations, we will need to move forward with this hearing so the FLRA can order the agency to undo these unlawful actions and restore workers’ collective bargaining rights.”
A Department of Education spokesperson told Federal Times that the agency does not comment on ongoing personnel matters.
According to the union press release, though the FLRA originally found merit for one of AFGE’s charges in 2018, there was no mechanism to force the Department of Education to comply with the finding, as there was no appointed general counsel for the FLRA.
Biden tapped longstanding FLRA official Charlotte Dye to work as the acting general counsel in March of this year.
Different agencies have taken a variety of tacks in responding to Biden’s order to undo Trump administration union policies.
Union officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, initially reported that agency negotiators were still pushing for initiatives from the previous administration, even after Biden took office, but the agency and union recently came to an agreement to wipe the slate clean and begin new negotiations.
The National Treasury Employees Union and Department of Health and Human Services announced Aug. 2 that they had come to a similar agreement to end their legal battles and restart contract negotiations.
“All we’ve ever sought is good faith negotiations over a new contract that protects a host of important employee benefits, including telework and alternative work schedules, which have become even more crucial during the pandemic,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a news release.
“The 14,000 HHS employees we represent around the country have committed themselves to public health and we share their desire to help the agency meet its important mission.”
Until NTEU and HHS negotiate a new contract, they will return to their collective bargaining agreement that was last updated in 2014.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.