House Democrats move to protect federal union workers as Trump tries to crush them


Under Trump, government agencies are doing their utmost to dismantle federal employee unions.

House Democrats are trying hard to protect federal employee unions in the era of Trump. Over 200 Democratic members of the House are asking House leadership to block the administration from unilaterally implementing bargaining agreements that don't favor workers.

When the House passed the 2020 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill in June, it added language that would stop agencies from putting in place a contract that had not been "mutually and voluntarily agreed to by all parties" or wasn't the product of binding arbitration. Essentially, the House bill means that the administration can't ignore federal workers and just impose a contract.

That would seem to be something that a union protected employees from, at a bare minimum, but that was before the Trump era. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unilaterally imposed a new contract on its workers. It dramatically decreased the ability of employees to work remotely and made it much easier for the agency to fire union members. Needless to say, the union members did not agree to this contract, and that's literally the opposite of how collective bargaining works.

And the EPA isn't the only agency trying this maneuver. Union workers at the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Education, and Health and Human Services are all facing similar situations in which the agencies are trying to severely limit negotiation opportunities and other union powers.

Under Trump, federal unions face risks they haven't faced since the Reagan era, and they need Congress to step in. As Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) noted, without protections, "the Trump administration will likely succeed in crushing the federal employee unions, making a mockery of the collective bargaining guarantee and rendering the task of effectively representing union members all but impossible."

Unions echo Raskin's concerns. American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox characterized this fight as "do or die," and said that if Congress doesn't act, "there could be nothing preventing the administration from decimating our contracts and stripping federal employees of basic rights and protections at the worksite."

Overall, it isn't a great time to be a federal union employee. Trump has engaged in wholesale attacks on the federal unions, undercutting union authority, and trying to make it much easier to fire union workers. The administration recently proposed measures to make it easier for people to leave federal unions, undermining their effectiveness. None of these moves is a surprise, but all of them are awful.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.