The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has sued President Donald Trump over an Executive Order (EO) he recently signed which clamps down on the use of official time by federal employees.
The lawsuit seeks “declaratory and injunctive relief” from the EO and says that it “seeks to impermissibly rewrite portions of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.” The lawsuit also claims that the EO is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution because “it singles out labor organizations and their representatives for disparate, negative treatment as compared to individuals.”
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement, “This president seems to think he is above the law, and we are not going to stand by while he tries to shred workers’ rights. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. No president should be able to undo a law he doesn’t like through administrative fiat.”
About the Executive Order
The recent EO named in the lawsuit, Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer Funded Union Time Use, dictates that an agreement that provides union time to exceed a time rate in excess of one hour will not ordinarily be considered “effective and efficient” or “reasonable, necessary and in the public interest.”
As FedSmith.com author Ralph Smith wrote, “The Executive Order essentially assumes that the use of paid time for union representatives is not in the public interest and that union business is hindering agencies from accomplishing their mission.”
For additional details about the EO, see Controlling Federal Unions’ Use of Official Time.
Elections Have Consequences for Unions
The escalating conflict between federal employee unions and the new administration is not a surprise. Federal employee unions have been increasingly involved in politics with support of political parties and candidates.
The majority of support from unions goes towards Democratic candidates. AFGE has recently issued numerous press releases announcing its endorsement for various candidates in upcoming elections. Out of the 19 candidates that are currently endorsed by AFGE, all but two are Democrats (as of the time of this writing). AFGE also endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election as did NTEU.
The obvious downside to campaigning for one party over another is that when the opposing party wins election, it can mean consequences for the unions that opposed it along the way. Clearly that has been a factor in leading to the recent actions being taken that AFGE views as unfair treatment.
FedSmith.com author Ralph Smith addressed this last year with what turned out to be a prescient prediction. He wrote:
With the federal employee unions having a visible role in national elections, [Governor Scott] Walker’s approach in Wisconsin is likely to find support in Congress and in the White House. Proposals made in Congress under President Obama did not get taken seriously as there was little doubt Obama would veto attempts to weaken the federal unions that supported him.
Some of the Walker proposals could be enacted through a presidential executive order. Others would require an Act of Congress and changes to federal regulations.
The proposals being discussed in that article were modifying collective bargaining protections for federal employees, making it easier to hire and fire federal employees, and basing salary levels on performance rather than longevity. See Election Consequences and Targeting Federal Employee Unions