WASHINGTON – As workers at the Environmental Protection Agency continue to grapple with leadership intent on rolling back years of life-saving work and dismantling critical programs, the union representing EPA employees recently held a special election to select their new president.
Gary Morton was elected as President of American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 – which represents more than 9,000 EPA workers nationwide – on October 3. He and Executive Vice President Denise Morrison are the leadership team that will help guide the Council through the Trump administration.
“I am so honored to be chosen by my peers as Council 238’s newest President,” said Morton, formerly the president of AFGE Local 3631 representing EPA employees in Philadelphia. “Our sisters and brothers at the EPA have been under intense scrutiny and had their work come under attack the last two years, and it’s vital we stand up for all the great things we do before it’s too late.”
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Morrison, who had previously served as Executive Vice President with former President John O’Grady, and served as Acting President after O’Grady retired in June, echoed Morton, saying, “The work we do saves lives – period. We’ve dedicated our careers to protecting the environment and public health, and we just want the administration to recognize our value and not dismantle the work we’ve done or the infrastructure we have in place.”
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Morton originally came to work at the federal government with the Internal Revenue Service, but left to join the EPA so he could, “go to a federal agency that made a positive impact on the lives of others.” He served as a local leader for Local 3631 since 2011 and joined Council 238’s Executive Board in 2015. Morton says he first decided to join AFGE because, “The union helped me, so I wanted to help others.” He has used his role to elevate the voice of EPA workers in Region 3, serving Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
From 2009-2012, Morrison was the President of AFGE Local 907 – representing EPA workers in Region 7, serving Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska – and was elected to a three-year term on the Executive Board in 2016. Morrison says she joined EPA to, “get involved in outreach and education,” on environmental issues. And she joined AFGE in 2009 to, “be an advocate for workers’ rights, and to be a voice for employees.”
Both leaders say that when Trump was elected President and put since-departed Scott Pruitt in charge as Administrator, the morale and work at EPA changed.
“I realized federal employees were under attack,” said Morton. “And AFGE is fighting back. This is not the time to be timid. Our way of life was changing for the worse, and rather than just ask ‘what will you do about it,’ I wanted to be part of the solution,” he added.
“Right now, employees do not have the resources to do their job,” said Morrison. “We believe in the mission of the agency. These cuts and the rolling back of regulations will make it harder for employees to do what they were hired to do. Some employees have decided – and likely more will decide – they cannot work under this administration and will resign or retire. And sadly, we’ve already seen a mass exodus of those employees leaving the EPA because of it,” she added.
Going forward, Morton and Morrison are excited to lead Council 238 in the fight to protect workers and the mission of the EPA.
“We need a unified Council 238 standing together for the rights of EPA employees,” said Morton. “We are fighting for the resources necessary to allow EPA employees to protect human health and the environment for the American public.”