FLRA Should Reject USDA's Request to Evade Legal Obligations

Categories: USDA, The Insider

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) should refuse to consider the U.S. Department of Agriculture's request to issue guidance that would allow the agency to deviate from what labor law and contract require.

In an attempt to evade the law and its contractual obligations, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking the FLRA to issue policy guidance that would allow it to disapprove provisions of a collective bargaining agreement that the union and the agency already agreed would remain in effect until replaced by a new agreement - which the parties are in the process of negotiating right now. USDA's goal is to break their deal with the union and immediately implement Trump's anti-worker executive orders, without regard to their legality or the agency's obligation to bargain with the union.

AFGE opposes the FLRA's consideration of USDA's request. The Federal Service Labor­ Management Relations Statute allows an agency head to review a collective bargaining agreement for compliance with the law after negotiations have been completed but before the agreement takes effect.

There is, however, no provision in the statute, nor should there be, for the re-review of agreements that were already reviewed and approved by an agency head and that by their own terms remain in effect during negotiations for a new agreement. Allowing such a second bite at the apple undermines the heart of contract negotiations and deprives both sides of the bargain they chose to make.

"The current contract, to which the USDA agreed, clearly states that the existing agreement will remain in force until a new agreement is signed. There is no valid reason to deviate from what the law and contract require," said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley. "AFGE does not support this request nor does AFGE support any attempt by USDA to evade its legal and contractual obligations."

The FLRA published notice in the Federal Register on January 23, 2020, that it is soliciting public comments on USDA's request. This notice represents another attempt by the FLRA to gut workers' rights and make a mockery of collective bargaining. AFGE urges the FLRA to stop attacking workers' rights and to instead follow the letter and intent of the Statute. AFGE will fight every effort to attack workers and bust their unions. We urge everyone to join us in opposing USDA's request.

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