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Court Sides With White House on Anti-Employee Executive Orders

posted July 16, 2019

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned an earlier ruling against a trio of anti-employee/anti-union Executive Orders issued by the Trump White House in 2018.

The Appeals Court decision does not immediately lift the injunction against Trump's three Executive Orders. Unions fighting the Orders, including FEA, will have a limited time to contemplate further legal action, including asking the full Appeals Court to review the case, before the Court issues a mandate and allows the Executive Orders to proceed.

The three Executive Orders attack federal workers and their unions in numerous ways, including mandating changes and eliminating due process in order to speed up and ease the process of firing employees deemed to be "bad performers"; severely limiting the amount of time employee-elected union representatives can spend performing representational duties, such as helping with grievance filings; and placing time limits on the duration of collective bargaining.

Taken as a whole, the Executive Orders represent an attempt by the Trump administration to severely curtail employee rights and the ability of unions to serve their members.

A U.S. District Judge ruled in August 2018 that most portions of the Executive Orders were illegal because they sought to circumvent federal labor laws written and approved by Congress. That case, AFGE v. Trump, was brought forth by a group of federal unions, including FEA.

The White House appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals and a three-judge panel this week ruled that the District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter. Instead, the Court of Appeals judges said complaints about the Executive Orders should have been brought before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) for ruling.

The FLRA is made up solely of Presidential appointees. The body has shown undeniable bias against employees and their unions in the past two years.

Despite last year's District Court ruling against most provisions of the Executive Orders, many of the harmful changes have already been creeping into the collective bargaining proposals of various federal agencies, including those coming from DoDEA.

The most direct threats to employees in the Executive Orders are an illegal elimination of due process rights, requirements that employees written up for claims of performance issues be given only 30 days to show improvement before they can be fired, and severe limitations on the amount of "Official Time" union representatives can use to serve their members in grievances or other matters.

The intention of the Executive Orders is clear: to deny employees their rights and make it harder for employees to obtain assistance from their union representatives.

It is worth noting that the three judges on the Court of Appeals did not rule on the legality of the Executive Orders; they ruled only on whether the District Court judge who ruled against the Orders in 2018 had jurisdiction to do so.

It is also worth noting that, because they are Executive Orders, not permanent changes in federal labor law, they can be overturned with the stroke of a pen by future Presidents.

FEA, working with other federal unions, will continue to fight these illegal Executive Orders and seek to have them overturned.