WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees has charged the Department of Education with violating federal labor law by throwing out the contract covering 3,900 federal employees and denying workers their legal right to representation.
AFGE filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority on March 12, stating that the Education Department failed to negotiate and bargain in good faith over a new contract.
After months of anti-union proposals and hostile behavior at the bargaining table, Department of Education management told AFGE Council 252 President Claudette Young on Friday, March 9, that it would not negotiate and would instead implement its own terms. The so-called “collective bargaining agreement” referred to by management is an illegal management edict that guts employee rights, including those addressing workplace health and safety, telework, and alternative work schedules.
“The Education Department has imposed on its workers an illegal document that we had absolutely no bargaining over,” Young said. “Secretary Betsy DeVos and her management team are attempting to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and kill the union.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ vendetta on public education has now taken stage within the Department of Education by gutting employees’ right to representation in the workplace, and interfering with AFGE’s legal obligation to represent employees by taking away representational time for union representatives. Education’s management edict subverts the statutory process established by Congress 40 years ago to facilitate the representation of all employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, regardless of their decision to join or not join the union.
AFGE Council 252 represents 3,900 Department of Education employees across the country, all of whom will be adversely impacted by this new anti-union decree. The council is composed of 10 locals in the following regions: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.
Joining the union is voluntary for workers, yet AFGE and other federal unions are required by law to represent everyone covered by the union contract – even if they choose not to join. For this reason, Congress provided representational time so that the union can carry out its legal duty of fair representation to all those who are covered by the contract, including those who choose not to pay dues. Removing access to this time is like asking the fire department to operate without firetrucks or a firehose.
DeVos’s new edict requires shop stewards and local union officers to use leave without pay to carry out their statutory representational duties – which include things like meeting with employees and managers to resolve workplace disputes, addressing issues of discrimination and retaliation, and effecting improvements in work processes. This edict is counterproductive and wrong. It’s bad for public employees, and it’s bad for public education.
“AFGE did not agree to these unilateral terms,” Young said. “AFGE is, and has been, eager to return to the table to negotiate a fair and just contract, which all employees deserve.”