Washington, DC, June 26, 2019 — The Trump administration has unilaterally suspended numerous powers and prerogatives long exercised by unions representing employees within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to documents posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Unless overturned, the new edict will dramatically reduce the type and level of assistance that unions can extend to rank-and-file EPA workers.
Yesterday, the Trump administration informed the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union within EPA, that effective July 8, 2019, a new “Master Collective Bargaining Agreement” would take effect. This new CBA was not the product of negotiation and purports to remain in effect for seven years.
Its provisions would, among other things –
- Require the union to vacate its office space;
- Deprive employees of union grievance and arbitration for terminations, discipline, lay-offs, and a host of other adverse actions;
- Slash the amount and scope of time union officials could spend assisting employees; and
- Deprive union access to websites, agency intranet, and even bulletin boards in communicating with its members.
“In the Trump world, there is no bargaining, only ultimatums,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney. “Under these rules, important safeguards against political purges within the civil service would be removed.”
Previously, President Trump tried to mandate some of these changes via Executive Order. A union lawsuit yielded a federal district court ruling that largely nullified that action, holding that such changes had to be negotiated under provisions of the Federal Labor Relations Act. Now, without bothering with negotiation, the Trump administration has directed that many of these same changes take effect under the guise of negotiation but, in reality, by fiat.
“Not only is the Trump White House waging war on environmental protection, rolling back regulations and gutting enforcement, but it is targeting the dedicated professionals laboring through very difficult circumstances within EPA,” added PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch, noting that most of the affected employees are scientists, engineers, attorneys, and other specialists. “Fear should not be the governing principle for public service.”
Undoubtedly, affected unions will also mount legal challenges to this unilateral “agreement.” In the interim, however, the rules for issues covered by the CBA will remain uncertain.