September 16, 2019
The attack on union dues is real.
It was a sea of red in front of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia July 25 as our members and allies gathered to protest the Trump administration’s union-busting, democracy-busting executive orders.
Members of Congress, more than 100 union presidents, and union members from other unions were among the more than 2,000 protesters gathering in front of the courthouse in Washington, D.C. to fight the illegal EOs.
The rally, one of the more than 65 protests across the country, coincided with the court hearing in which our lawyers presented oral arguments for the lawsuit challenging the executive orders that seek to destroy our unions and take away workers’ rights.
Federal employees across the country also showed up for work in red to show solidarity as part of the Red for Feds Day of Action.
Several agencies have begun implementing the executive orders by kicking union volunteers out of our offices, cutting us off Intranet and email systems, taking away our right to file grievances, and severely restricting our ability to fight injustice in the workplace.
“We are here, and we ain’t going away!” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. told the crowd. “The Constitution gives us the right to freedom of association in the form of union!”
Cox vowed to continue to fight regardless of what happens in the court room.
“They’re coming after you because you are the embodiment of what the labor movement can and should be,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Throughout the entire history of labor, nothing has been given to us. We fight for everything!”
Trumka was accompanied by AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler.
AFGE National Vice President for District 14 Eric Bunn said this government is by the people and for the people of the United States, and without unions, there will be no America.
Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE Social Security Council 220 that represents 28,000 SSA employees nationwide, told a horror story of how SSA prohibits union volunteers to use their own leave to represent employees and how it cuts official time – the time union volunteers use to settle workplace disputes and fight injustice in the workplace – by 88% to undermine our union and workplace rights. He predicts the return of the spoils system.
“Promotion will be given because of political reasons!” he said.
“It broke my heart to pack my union files,” Sharon Harris, executive vice president of AFGE’s National Council of Department of Education Locals, described the day she was told to leave the union office. “They removed all our rights.”
Pro-worker lawmakers take part in the protest
But we are not alone in this fight. Many members of Congress are against the EOs and took part in the protest. They understand that our excellent work representing America’s workforce makes our country better and that union busting goes against our self-interest and democratic values.
“Unions created the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “When they’re destroying unions, they’re destroying the middle class.”
“The middle class has a union label on it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. She urged union members to continue to raise our voice and vowed to fight to protect workers’ rights.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said anyone who signs executive orders to attack unions and take away collective bargaining rights is not a friend of working people.
Also speaking at the rally were Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., and Rep. Linda Sanchez of California. We were also honored to have the presence of Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia and other members of Congress who came to show support.
We also have one letter against the EOs cosigned by almost half the Senate and another letter cosigned by almost one third of the House.
Lawmakers take to the Senate, House floors to fight against the EOs
Several members of Congress didn’t just come out to support us at the rally, but they took to the House and Senate floors on our behalf as well -- thanks to our great working relationships and members’ visits and phone calls. As our lawyers presented oral arguments in court, our allies in Congress fought against union-busting.
Here's what a few of our allies in Congress had to say:
"Corporate special interests have spent decades stripping workers of their freedom to organize for fair wages and benefits they've earned. My colleagues talk about freedom all the time. How about freedom to band together and speak as one voice to get better treatment and better wages and better benefits? Make no mistake, Mr. President, an attack on public service unions is an attack on all unions, and an attack on unions is an attack on all workers."
- Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio
"This is not just about busting unions. This is about busting democracy. I say that because the civil service laws were passed for a reason. We don't want to see cronyism and corruption with patronage in our federal workforce. That's why we have a civil service law."
- Senator Ben Cardin, Maryland
"These executive orders sabotage the hard-fought gains federal workers have achieved through decades of organizing and collective bargaining at agencies throughout the federal government. This sabotage has a purpose: to make life so miserable for our federal workforce that they either quit their jobs or retire. The long-term damage that gutting our federal workforce would cause to our nation, economy, and communities is serious."
- Senator Mazie Hirono
"The first executive order that was issued short circuits the collective bargaining process. It imposes a new rigid process under which federal agencies are allowed to impose workplace policies without good faith negotiations...The second order imposes arbitrary limits on the time that federal employees and the union can carry out their duties to represent their fellow workers. No single case is the same. And Federal employee unions are required not only to represent the workers who sign up as a member of the union, but ALL federal workers. And so to arbitrarily dictate the amount of time necessary to protect the rights of a federal employee is wrong and will undermine the justice within the system."
- Senator Patty Murray
"Federal law requires that agencies bargain in good faith with their workers. That makes for a better workplace, and that can make for better results for the American people. The President cannot just repeal the law by executive order, and I hope that the courts will strike down these executive orders as being an abuse of process and violating the law."
- Senator Chris Van Hollen
Also speaking on the Senate floor were Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton also gave a speech on the House floor.
We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our union brothers and sisters from other unions. AFSCME President Lee Saunders, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, and NTEU President Tony Reardon, NFFE President Randy Erwin were among union presidents speaking at the national rally in D.C.
Besides showing up to work in red and attending our rallies, our allies also helped our #RedForFed Twitter campaign trend for hours on Wednesday with thousands of employees, lawmakers, and union members posting photos wearing red in solidarity with federal workers.
The attack on union dues is real.
A tweet from President Trump set in motion a chain of events that led to some employees at the NOAA being threatened because they wouldn’t alter their forecasts to fit the political winds.
AFGE and other unions representing employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs completed the final step in our lawsuits against the VA for removing hundreds of employees from official time.