The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leadership appears to have confused agency “briefings” on COVID-19 with formal negotiations with the union required under the law.
In response to AFGE’s letters to EPA voicing our concerns over the agency’s failure to bargain with the union on reopening plans, the EPA claimed it had already informed union officials of the plans through multiple “briefings”.
While it is true that EPA has given us notice and is apparently planning to bargain with us, what is also true is that they have moved ahead without completing those negotiations – rushing to reopen offices with little regard to the health and safety of employees.
The bathroom protocol that requires an employee to place a sticky note with their name on the door to go to the restroom, for example, was not negotiated with the union. The elevator policy that limits occupancy to two employees at a time, requiring workers to wait in line or gather in groups to enter or leave their offices, was not negotiated with the union.
“The best lies have a grain of truth to them,” said AFGE in a statement. “Agency briefings are not the same as formal negotiations with the union. EPA is enforcing its plans for reopening worksites without satisfying its legal obligations to negotiate the impact of those changes with AFGE. Our claims are not false. We have and will continue to pursue litigation against the agency in every instance in which they violate the law.
“The COVID-19 pandemic does not allow EPA or any other agency to circumvent their bargaining obligations, and we intend to hold this administration accountable for failing to work with us to ensure the safety of the employees we represent and the public we serve,” the union added.