WASHINGTON – More than 40 U.S. Senators are calling on 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 7,500 employees AFGE represents.
In a Oct. 22 letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, 41 U.S. Senators question why EPA ended negotiations with AFGE and implemented new workplace rules that cut telework, limit AFGE’s ability to represent employees at the work site, and prevent workers from challenging adverse actions through the union grievance process.
“By unilaterally ending collective bargaining, EPA appears to have abdicated its statutory responsibility in order to impose contentious contact terms,” the senators wrote.
Since the contract was imposed in July, AFGE representatives have been evicted from their union offices, denied access to meeting spaces, and blocked from communicating with employees through bulletin board postings.
“As our country faces increasingly dire environmental and public health challenges, EPA must be prepared to meet these challenges head-on. It simply cannot do so with a demoralized and weakened workforce,” the senators wrote. “We urge EPA management to return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith.”
The letter was signed by 41 Senators, led by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters and Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper. Also signing the letter were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and all U.S. Senators currently running for president: Sens. Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
“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 President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Thank you to all the Senators 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.”