As federal employees across the country are busy helping fight the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is busy attacking them, once again using the supposedly independent Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as a tool to launch the attack.
The FLRA has proposed a new rule that would stop federal workers who are union members from using official time to share their views with members of Congress on important issues like workplace safety and working conditions.
The FLRA’s attempt to set new policy would upend the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, which allows official time to be used by federal employees to “present the views of [their] labor organization to heads of agencies and other officials of the executive branch of the government, the Congress, and other appropriate authorities.”
More importantly, the FLRA’s move against official time would put the lives of federal workers and the American people they serve at risk.
For example, if this new proposal had been in effect a few years ago, Bureau of Prisons correctional officers wouldn’t have been able to work with their members of Congress to pass a life-saving pepper spray law.
Without official time, the American public never would have known about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ waitlist scandal in 2014. Kathleen Dahl wouldn’t have been able to blow the whistle on a Legionnaires’ outbreak at her VA that killed six veterans and sickened 22 others. Dr. Michelle Washington wouldn’t have been allowed to testify before Congress about a shortage of doctors to treat troops returning from war with PTSD.
With the current outbreak of the coronavirus, this proposed rule would be even more dangerous if frontline workers weren’t allowed to speak out against staffing shortages and a lack of personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
“Federal employees raising health and safety concerns, and advocating for improvements, have won better workplace protections for all Americans,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “They must not be silenced. They must be able to continue to inform and work with their members of Congress.”