Senators Join AFGE in Calling on Appropriators to Protect Workplace Rights, Democracy

Forty-three U.S. senators are calling on Senate leadership and appropriators to protect federal employees’ workplace rights as they work to finalize the 2020 financial services and general government funding bill.

In a letter to Senate leadership, the senators, led by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters of Michigan, say that the FY 2020 funding bill being finalized for next year must include House-passed language that would prevent President Trump’s political appointees from unilaterally stripping federal employees of their collective bargaining rights and protections against whistleblower retaliation and other mismanagement.

“Robust labor unions are a hallmark of competitive workplaces – they lead the fight for better benefits, protections, and working conditions,” the senators wrote. “The Trump Administration’s anti-union agenda undermines the government’s ability to attract talented workers and demoralizes workers currently in public service.”

Also signing the letter were all U.S. Senators currently running for president: Sens. Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

The Senate letter follows a similar letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House appropriations leaders in September from 217 House lawmakers, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Both the Senate and House letters urge lawmakers to adopt language included in the House-passed Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill ( HR 3351) in the final FY 2020 funding measure.

Why we need this provision

This language would prevent federal agencies from unilaterally imposing anti-worker management edicts in the place of negotiated collective bargaining agreements. The language would also require agencies to abide by current law and bargain in good faith with federal employee unions.

President Trump issued three executive orders last year designed to bust federal labor unions and eliminate workplace protections for federal employees. Agency leaders appointed by the administration are using the executive orders as the basis to repudiate existing contracts and impose anti-worker provisions that have not been negotiated with the union.

These illegal changes have allowed agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and Education Department to evict union representatives from office space, deny employees access to fair representation at the worksite, unilaterally exclude employees from telework, discard agreements used to enforce employment laws and policies at the worksite, and remove employees who have voluntarily joined AFGE from union membership without their consent.

“Now that a federal court has lifted the injunction on the executive orders, it’s open season on federal employee unions and our collective bargaining rights,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said. “If Congress fails to act, there could be nothing preventing the administration from decimating our contracts and stripping all federal employees of basic rights and protections at the worksite.”

“On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers AFGE proudly represents, I urge Senate and House leaders to protect our democracy by including this language in any appropriations bill that becomes law,” he added.

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