October 30, 2019

Tim Kauffman

[email protected]

FLRA Investigation Shows EPA Violated Labor Law

Categories: EPA

Investigator: Agency imposed illegal workplace rules after gutting union contract

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency violated federal labor law by failing to bargain in good faith with the American Federation of Government Employees and unilaterally imposing illegal workplace rules on 8,000 federal employees covered by the union’s contract, a Federal Labor Relations Authority investigation has concluded.

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 on the employees the union represents. AFGE filed a second ULP on Oct. 24 after EPA implemented its own management edict.

In response, an investigator in FLRA’s Chicago regional office has notified both parties that the agency has found merit with the union’s charges.

“EPA violated the law by discarding the labor contract it had previously negotiated with AFGE and imposing a management edict on the 8,000 workers we represent at the agency,” said AFGE Deputy General Counsel Cathie McQuiston, who is leading AFGE’s efforts to beat back EPA’s union-busting actions.

The FLRA investigator has proposed a settlement agreement in which the EPA agrees to rescind the unlawfully imposed contract, return working conditions and treatment of the union to those contained in the prior contract, publicly post notice of the violation, and return to the negotiating table to bargain with the union in good faith.

“We are hopeful that EPA management will abide by the FLRA’s findings and swiftly return to the negotiating table to bargain with us in good faith on a new contract that equips employees with the resources and support needed to carry out their vital mission,” McQuiston said.

EPA began enforcing its illegal management edit on July 8. The illegal rules 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.

Many of these provisions mirror those contained in three executive orders issued by the Trump administration in May 2018 that have been challenged by AFGE and other unions.

This isn’t the first time that an FLRA investigator has cited the Trump administration for violating federal labor laws. In July 2018, an agency investigation concluded that the Department of Education violated the law by throwing out the contract covering 3,900 federal employees represented by AFGE and enforcing management rules that deny workers their legal right to representation.

“We see a clear pattern of this lawless administration ignoring the law and moving forward with their attempts to bust the union at the EPA, the Department of Education, and elsewhere,” McQuiston said.

Despite the findings of merit in both the EPA and Education complaints, the FLRA is unable to formally prosecute the agencies with violating labor laws because it lacks a Senate-confirmed General Counsel.

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