Skip to main content

AFSCME challenges federal panel’s blatantly anti-labor policies

The E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. (Photo by APK/Wikimedia Commons)
AFSCME challenges federal panel’s blatantly anti-labor policies
By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME is taking the Federal Labor Relations Authority to court for adopting blatantly anti-union policies.

AFSCME is challenging three FLRA “statements of policy or guidance” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that these new revisions to policies that have been in effect for decades will erode the collective bargaining rights of federal-worker unions and are little more than union-busting tools.

The FLRA resolves disputes between federal agencies and unions representing federal workers, but the panel issued the statements in question even though there was no dispute before it that would give it any reason to reconsider its existing policy. Further, AFSCME says, the statements lack sufficient legal reasoning to abandon longstanding precedent.

Before President Donald Trump took office, the FLRA rarely issued such policy statements in a vacuum, instead preferring to its work by resolving real-world disputes. Two of the three FLRA members were picked by Trump. The third member – who dissented from the statements – was initially appointed by President Barack Obama and is the sole Democratic member of the FLRA.

The statements all give federal agencies more power during midterm bargaining and eviscerate unions’ ability to fight for their members.

These egregious statements include changing the standard for when an agency must bargain with a union over changes to terms and conditions of employment, stating that agencies can make significantly more changes to the working conditions of federal workers without having to negotiate with their unions first.

A second statement says federal labor law neither requires nor prohibits midterm bargaining –meaning an employer can reject a union’s demand to negotiate over specific issues while a collective bargaining agreement is in place – though federal employees’ unions have long had the right to request negotiations in the middle of a contract term.

The third statement forces ongoing collective bargaining agreements to be deemed expired, which authorizes agency heads to challenge negotiated terms they deem are contrary to law, rules or regulations.

 “This is a clear attempt to harm workers and take away their power at the bargaining table,” said Andrew Washington, executive director of AFSCME District Council 20, which represents 8,000 federal workers.  

“These kinds of anti-union, anti-worker policies only serve to hurt the people who keep this city and this country moving forward. It’s despicable that during a pandemic where so many of our federal workers have been on the front lines, the Trump administration continues to try and attack them any way they can,” added Washington, who’s also a vice president of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO.

The Trump administration has been openly hostile toward federal employees and the unions they have formed to protect themselves against political meddling and abuses of power. AFSCME has fought prior attacks on federal workers by Trump officials. These new statements are just another example of the Trump administration’s anti-worker policies, and AFSCME is committed to fighting them in court.

Our union isn’t alone in this fight. The D.C. Circuit Court consolidated AFSCME’s petitions for review of the three FLRA statements with similar petitions from two other federal-worker unions – the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union.

Related Posts