WASHINGTON – More than half of all U.S. House members are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to return to the bargaining table after walking away from contract talks with the American Federation of Government Employees and unilaterally imposing new workplace rules on the nearly 8,000 employees AFGE represents at the agency.
In a Nov. 20 letter to EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler, 228 lawmakers criticize the agency for failing to negotiate with AFGE in good faith and instead replacing the previously negotiated contract with an anti-worker management directive.
“The directive violates the rights and protections that Congress specifically guaranteed to public-sector employees. Through its refusal to bargain in good faith with the union, the EPA jeopardizes the agency’s mission, public health, and the environment,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter was led by Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Paul Tonko of New York, and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire. It mirrors an Oct. 22 letter to Wheeler signed by 41 U.S. Senators.
The illegal rules imposed by EPA have allowed the agency to evict union representatives from office space it previously provided, 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.
AFGE Council 238 filed an unfair labor practice charge against the EPA on June 25, immediately after receiving notice from the EPA that it intended to repudiate the previously negotiated contract and unilaterally impose its own rules. AFGE filed a second ULP on Oct. 24 after EPA implemented its own management edict.
In late October, a Federal Labor Relations Authority investigator notified EPA and AFGE that agency has found merit with the union’s charges. Despite the finding of merit, the FLRA is unable to formally prosecute EPA with violating labor law because it lacks a Senate-confirmed General Counsel.
“What is happening at the EPA is part of a larger mission by the Trump administration to decimate federal employee unions and leave employees with no voice to challenge mismanagement, workplace retaliation, and other abuses,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said. “We thank all the members of Congress in both the House and Senate who are calling on the EPA to return to the table and negotiate with the union in good faith over a contract that will allow EPA employees to continue doing their jobs on behalf of the American people.”