Second federal workers union, NTEU, sues Trump over executive orders
Tony Reardon | nteu67.org

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (PAI)—A second top federal workers union, the Treasury Employees (NTEU), is suing GOP President Donald Trump over his executive orders stripping the nation’s two million feds of most of their rights and employment protections.

And NTEU is taking on two of Trump’s orders – and in a different federal court – including the one the Government Employees (AFGE) chose just days before.

“NTEU believes the president exceeded his authority in several provisions of his executive orders,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon after his union went to U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., late in the afternoon of June 1. “The president cannot unilaterally change federal law.”

NTEU’s suit, like AFGE’s, challenges the Trump order that mandates federal employee shop stewards handle bargaining, grievances and other issues with management on their own time and on their own dime, rather than being paid for official time.

The Treasury Employees also challenge a second Trump order: The one that says bosses can give underperforming workers only 30 days, not 60, to shape up – and then fire them. That, 30-day deadline too, violates federal law, Reardon says.

Federal civil service law specifically orders pay for shop stewards at their going salary rates when they must conduct that business. The State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined AFGE’s suit against that order, filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., on May 31.

“By instructing a federal agency to bargain in bad faith with its own workers, Trump not only disrespected the people who take pride in keeping our country safe and healthy, he also instructed his government to break the law and violated his own constitutionally mandated duty of care,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said.

Right-wing anti-worker congressional Republicans have been trying to repeal the official time provisions of federal law for years, so far unsuccessfully.

“Official time ensures frontline employees have a safe place to go to report on the job harassment, discrimination, unfair retaliation and if they seek to disclose waste, fraud and abuse that is occurring internally at agencies,” Reardon said.

“It provides a check and balance on agency leadership, allowing frontline workers to have the ability to seek accountability from agencies, and ensuring they operate in a legal, transparent and fair manner on behalf of the public in implementing and administering federal laws and programs.”

Part of that “check and balance,” which Trump’s order also would ban, bars workers from taking their concerns to Congress. Letting workers contact Congress is part of civil service law, also, Reardon said.

And the shop stewards also use official time to solve problems ranging from agency discrimination against workers by race, age and/or disability to getting needed time off for customs and border patrol officers to ensuring promotions are based on merit, not favoritism.

Trump’s order would open the door to all those prohibited practices, NTEU said.

“The executive order relating to the use of official time by a labor organization attempts to paint a picture, through rhetoric and misleading characterizations, that such time is not used for furthering the effective operations of a federal agency. In fact, the Civil Service Reform Act expressly provides an union and an agency should negotiate for official time that is ‘reasonable, necessary and in the public interest,’” NTEU said.

Trump’s executive order allowing the quick evaluations and firings also breaks federal law, Reardon says. The law “requires a reasonable period for an employee to improve, and the length of that period is tied to the type of job and the nature of the alleged poor performance involved,” NTEU explains.

While AFGE has yet to join the Treasury Employees’ lawsuit against Trump’s 30-days-or-be-fired order, it’s posted a long analysis of that dictate – and the other two – on its website.

“The administration is trying to undermine our democracy and usher in the spoils system, in which those who agree with the administration are rewarded and those who oppose are pushed out,” AFGE said.

“The order on removal procedure and merit principles…targets employees’ rights to protection against retaliation, discrimination, and unfair termination, suspension, and performance evaluation. This essentially gives managers a license to discriminate and retaliate.”

Trump removes mandates for using the same standards – “comparators” — for the same discipline of all agency workers, the union says. Comparators “are necessary to make sure firings aren’t discriminatory or politically motivated.”

Trump would also bar unions from filing grievances over unfair performance evaluations and denial of raises, bonuses or incentive pay. “This means if your boss doesn’t like you for any reason, you may not get a pay raise regardless of your performance – and you can’t do anything about it,” the union says. And the 30-day notice, in practical terms, “allows your boss to terminate you any time he/she wants,” while the charges of misconduct – even if they’re lies – “stay in your personnel record forever.”

“The idea these executive orders will make the workforce more efficient, cost-effective to taxpayers and improve the morale of federal employees is absurd,” President Reardon said. “Any organization’s success is dependent on a workplace where employees feel valued and respected, and the president’s orders show that in his administration federal workers are neither.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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