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Executive Orders Aim to Eliminate Federal Workers' Rights

AFGE Sues Trump Administration

President Trump signed three Executive Orders on May 25, 2018, that attack the rights of federal workers. The three orders aim to limit unions' ability to negotiate collective bargaining agreements; eliminate union representatives' ability to represent workers; and make it easier to fire federal employees.

Read below about what has happened in court.

Read AFGE's statement on how the Executive Orders remove long-standing checks and balances in the federal civil service.

Local 476 President Ashaki Robinson Johns
Local 476 President
Ashaki Robinson Johns
addresses the membership
about the Executive Orders.

Executive Order 13836 encourages agencies to re-open their union contracts even if they are not approaching the end of their term. It sets arbitrary time limits for the negotiation process and directs agencies to unilaterally impose their contract terms if the timelines are not met. The order also prohibits agencies from bargaining over "permissive" subjects such as telework, alternative work schedules, and leave procedures.

Read what AFGE said when the Department of Education stopped contract negotiations and implemented its own terms.

Executive Order 13837 destroys federal unions' ability to represent employees. It cuts the official time hours that representatives may use and reduces the ways official time may be used. (Official time is paid duty time that union representatives may use to represent employees, such as in negotiations or in grievances.) Representatives will have to take leave or use LWOP to represent employees in almost all types of grievances. Representatives will not be allowed to spend more than 25% of their time on union work. They will not be allowed to use government equipment or space for union work, unless they pay an undiscounted rental fee.

The Administration led up to this Executive Order with an OPM attack on official time that that discredited the proper use of official time, according to AFGE.

Executive Order #13839 directly attacks federal workers' employment by removing protections against retaliation, discrimination, and unfair termination, suspension, and performance evaluation. The order removes requirements related to fair and equitable treatment; prohibits grievances challenging unfair evaluations, bonuses, and other incentives; gives performance priority over seniority in RIFs, allowing favoritism to influence retention; and gives supervisors discretion to terminate employees any time they want.

These Executive Orders hide their malicious and destructive intent behind misleading titles and terms. For example, a provision called "Ensuring Integrity of Personnel Files" actually prohibits agencies from correcting personnel files--such as removing wrongful and inaccurate accusations of misconduct.

District Court Judge Strikes Down Executive Orders that "Eviscerate" Collective Bargaining Rights;
Decision Overturned in Court of Appeals

In August 2018, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson struck down most of the key provisions of three executive orders because they “eviscerate[d] the right to bargain collectively” at federal agencies. The case was brought by AFGE and NTEU. Read Judge Brown Jackson's decision.

The Justice Department appealed the decision, and oral arguments were held on April 4, 2019 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

On July 17, 2019, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court decision. The Court of Appeals said that the district court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Instead, the court said, the unions should have gone through the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which is the expert in labor matters. AFGE and NTEU plan to continue fighting the executive orders.

Read a summary of the Court of Appeals decision and the opinion.

What This Means for You

The Court of Appeals' decision allows the harmful effects of the executive orders to be implemented as soon as we are done negotiating a new contract. This will affect you by: