Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are mobilizing across the country to garner support from members of Congress and the public to protect the EPA from Trump’s ongoing attacks on its workers and mission.
Not only did the Trump administration roll back more than 90 environment and human health protection rules and regulations, the administration also trashed EPA employees’ union contract and unilaterally imposed its own anti-worker rules. AFGE forced EPA management to return to the table after filing unfair labor practice charges and grievances over the agency’s decision to repudiate our previously negotiated contract.
“[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi was not the first person to rip up a document,” said AFGE Local 3631 Chief Steward Jan Nation after participating in AFGE’s silent gathering at the Hart Senate Office Building earlier this month. “Back in June, this administration ripped up our negotiated contract. And they imposed upon us a contract, made no negotiations, no say from us, just shoved it down our throat and took away workers’ rights and union rights. Those two things go hand in hand together, and we’re going to fight to get them back.”
With less than a month to secure a fair contract, EPA workers are intensifying their efforts to mobilize support for the EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights to protect the agency’s mission and the people who carry it out.
So far, there are 3,948 signatures on the Bill of Rights – including 40 lawmakers. The Union for Concerned Scientists has signed onto the Bill of Rights, giving EPA workers a boost in their fight to be able to do their jobs and protect the public health without political interference.
“We’ve got to build on this momentum and add thousands of more names to the EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights,” said Gary Morton, president of AFGE EPA Council 238. “Our efforts are making an impact. Our vision of a strong EPA where workers have the resources they need to ensure clean environments is becoming a reality. But we need to keep up the energy to make it happen.”
Keeping up the energy they did. EPA workers in North Carolina, for example, took to the streets to protect their mission and call for the EPA workers’ Bill of Rights.
AFGE Local 3428 members had an EPA Worker Bill of Rights signing party. They also met with several members of Congress to garner their support.
The workers appear to have the public on their side. For the first time in nearly 20 years, a new survey found that the environment is a pressing issue among Americans, on par with the economy. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans say protecting the environment should be a top priority for Congress and the government on par with 67% who say the same thing about strengthening the economy.
“We’re getting a lot of great feedback and support from Congress people. It’s great to hear. It’s a great morale booster because they’re saying ‘Thank you for all the work you do,’” said Joyce Howell, vice president of AFGE Local 3631 in Philadelphia. “The thing is, for EPA, it’s not only protecting the workers; it’s protecting the work. We want to be able to do the work we came to EPA to do. With all the environmental rollbacks, it’s just demoralizing.”
EPA employees are outraged that the Trump administration is once against proposing to cut the EPA’s budget by 26% next year.
“Seventy percent of EPA’s budget goes out to grants, to the states to help them protect their water and our air, and that’s our mission to protect the health and the environment, and I can’t understand anybody can be opposed to clean air and clean water and the clean environment for our next generations to come,” Nation said.
Morton reminded people why the EPA was created and why EPA employees fight to protect their mission.
“The EPA was created in 1970 because community groups and state groups could not protect the environment. They made environmental decisions based on economics,” he said. “EPA employees just want to do the jobs. They want the resources to keep American safe. This isn’t for personal gain. This is for public service. We want the tools and the backing of the government to do it.”
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