In what has become an alarming, growing trend, members of the administration are attempting to bust unions through bad faith negotiations – with Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers becoming the latest targets.
After representatives from CDC broke off contract negotiations with AFGE in July, the agency came back to the table earlier this month, this time joined by a representative from CDC’s parent department, Health and Human Services, who offered up a draconian proposal that eliminates nearly 80% of the existing agreement.
AFGE Local 2883 – which represents more than 2,000 CDC workers in Atlanta – strongly opposes the proposal and is calling for CDC to push back against HHS and to bargain in good faith with the union.
“This absurd proposal clearly comes from decision makers in Washington and unjustly interferes with our work, our union, and our rights,” said AFGE Local 2883 President Pam Gilbertz. “We know this isn’t coming from CDC, because they know how important our presence is to the agency’s mission, but we need them to step up on our behalf and allow us to protect public servants’ rights at work.”
The proposals from HHS mirror those from the Department of Education that were unilaterally imposed last March and would strip away 37 of 47 articles in the existing contract. It would gut union membership, remove official time, eliminate alternative and telework from the CBA, and dispose of congressionally mandated due process rights and procedures that have existed for decades. HHS wants to impose their proposal for seven years – four years longer than case law even allows for.
Gilbertz said the local has never experienced this kind of outward hostility in previous negotiations, and it’s stunning to see it now. The representative that dropped this in our lap wouldn’t even participate in discussing it, opting instead to focus on his phone for the entirety of the meeting.
According to Gilbertz, the proposal would prevent employees from being able to file almost any grievance, deny whistleblower protections, and undermine the union by requiring employees to file arbitrary and unnecessary paperwork to renew their union membership. The local fears these attacks limit its ability to represent workers blowing the whistle or facing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation – which ultimately will hurt their work.
“Our agency’s motto is ‘Saving Lives. Protecting People,’ and that’s just what my colleagues and I do,” Gilbertz added. “Our work is vital to our country’s safety and well-being, and instead of allowing us to focus on that, the administration is trying to take away our rights and voice at work. But at the end of the day, we know our rights and we are not afraid to fight.”
AFGE Local 2883 and CDC are scheduled to resume negotiations on September 24.