Federal workers take to streets nationwide against Trump union-busting
NTEU and AFGE started the lawsuits against Trump. NTEU

Clad in T-shirts declaring “#RedforFeds,” thousands of federal workers and their allies – union and non-union – took to the streets nationwide on July 25 to vociferously protest anti-worker GOP President Donald Trump’s federal union-busting executive orders.

The protests, organized by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal union, were in conjunction with a federal court hearing that afternoon on unions’ lawsuits seeking to declare Trump’s edicts illegal under labor law and unconstitutional under the Bill of Rights.

The protests also occurred a day after AFGE got word the Federal Labor Relations Authority – the small agency which oversees labor-management relations between the government and its two million workers – is ready to rule against another Trumpite, Education Secretary Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos.

AFGE filed a formal 5-count labor law-breaking – formally called unfair labor practices – charge against DeVos for unilaterally imposing of a new “contract” on her 3,900 AFGE-represented workers. FLRA ruled for the union and against her.

Trump’s three executive orders, issued just before Memorial Day, took effect July 1. Their impact is already showing up in agencies in terms of cowed workers and disrupted services to everyone in the U.S., AFGE and other unions say. That’s because the orders poison the environment for the feds, making them less able to do their jobs, the union adds.

Trump’s orders “chip away at due process and collective bargaining rights for federal employees and impede employee representation at the job site,” AFGE explained.

Trump ordered his agency chiefs to bargain new, restrictive contracts with the workers, to impose rules to make it easy to fire a worker within a month and to force federal union shop stewards and negotiators to work on their own time and on their own time, rather than being paid for lost time during work.

“The executive orders are a direct assault on our apolitical civil service system and are nothing but thinly veiled attempts at busting unions and rolling back workplace rights across the country,” AFGE said.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, meeting in D.C., issued a strong statement against Trump’s orders, promising to “work to have them declared illegal or rolled back by Congress.” Trump’s orders “would politicize the career civil service, opening it up to corruption and cronyism,” the fed said. “They do nothing to improve operations of government agencies.”

“By depriving workers of their rights to address and resolve workplace issues, they would do the opposite. Issues like sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, workplace health and safety… and so much more would be more difficult to resolve. The EOs will lead to more mismanagement, not less, create inefficiencies and hinder the ability of dedicated federal employees to deliver services to the American public in an efficient and effective manner…They represent an outrageous attack against our work, our citizens and our democracy.”

“We look forward to defending the requirements placed on federal agencies under the Civil Service Reform Act,” said Treasury Employees (NTEU) President Tony Reardon. His union and AFGE started the lawsuits against Trump. “The EOs dismantle federal employees’ basic workplace rights, their ability to protect each other from unfair treatment and their fundamental ability to bargain collectively.”

Trump’s anti-worker “executive orders make a mockery of” collective bargaining, Reardon said. “Weakening the voice and rights of federal employees only strengthens the special interests who want federal agencies to serve them and their specific agendas rather than the general public.”

“We will stand in solidarity with you every day it takes until things are set right,” Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson told a large noontime rally outside the federal building in Seattle, The Stand, the WSLC’s online paper, reported.

“President Trump may still be living in a world where he is a game-show host, but we live in a world where getting the right services to the right people on time often is the difference between life and death, eating or starving, and dignity or disrespect,” Johnson said.

The nation’s largest union, the National Education Association, also backed the #RedforFeds day and the lawsuits. NEA includes 6,000 teachers at Defense Department schools. “The harmful and ill-conceived executive orders…are an affront to the women and men serving in our military safeguarding our country as well as to the thousands of public servants – teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers – working hard every day to educate their families” in those schools said President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia.

And Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees/Machinists, called Trump’s executive orders “a direct attack on our constitutional 1st Amendment rights: The right to freedom of association, and the right to form and join a union.”

Meanwhile, AFGE gleefully said Trump Education Secretary DeVos, a GOP big giver known for her hatred of public schools and teachers’ unions, lost when she tried to impose her own anti-worker “contract” on her department’s workers. Its formal complaint said DeVos wouldn’t even agree to ground rules for negotiating a new contract at her department, much less a contract itself. Instead, DeVos unilaterally presented a pact “that stripped out most of the parties’ previous collective bargaining agreement and essentially removes all union rights,” the complaint said.

AFGE members at the department overwhelmingly rejected DeVos’ deal, but she went ahead – illegally – and imposed it anyway, breaking federal government labor law, which says an agency may do so only if the two sides bargain to an impasse. “The FLRA investigator found merit in the unfair labor practice charge that AFGE filed after Education Department management walked away from the bargaining table and imposed its own illegal management edict,” union General Counsel David Borer said.

DeVos’ loss “puts all agencies on notice that they cannot use President Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional executive orders as a cover to bust unions and gut employees’ rights,” AFGE President J. David Cox added.


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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.