U.S. Appeals Court Kills Injunction on Trump Labor Relations EOs

A Circuit Court has overturned a District Court’s decision to declare invalid major portions of several Executive Orders impacting labor relations.

In August of 2018, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson writing for the D.C. District Court issued an injunction to preclude Federal Agencies from implementing certain provisions of three executive orders addressing labor relations institutional issues and seeking to streamline employee removal processes. In September of the same year, the Justice Department appealed the D.C. Court’s decision. See: Judge Strikes Down Most of Trump’s Executive Orders Targeting Federal Employee Unions

On July 16, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision.

The unions involved in the suit claimed all kinds of constitutional violations i.e., that the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) wasn’t competent to hear objections to the orders, etc., etc. D.C. District Court cases in which this court has jurisdiction in Federal Sector labor relations cases are literally rarer than hen’s teeth. The District Court had decided that the unions were right and that it (the District Court) could bypass the Federal Labor-Management Relations Statute’s administrative appeals process which provides direct access from an FLRA decision into the U.S. Circuit.

Now, I don’t want to claim that a district court judge was looking for a way to put her mark on a presidential action, but the circuit court found nothing in her decision supporting her logic or rationale. It appeared to some that she took the union’s arguments and used them in their entirety to justify her decision. 

Now, I admit that I didn’t think much of her reasoning and fortunately neither did the circuit.

What’s Next?

Although the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) did not issue a statement on the court’s decision, it appears certain that the executive orders, in their entirety, will be legal but may be delayed pending any appeals. Agencies now bargaining or getting ready to, are obliged by the orders to take additional actions to get their proposals in line. 

According to the circuit court, the FLRA has the jurisdiction to address the unions’ claims in the context of unfair labor practice allegations (ULP) or negotiability appeals as Agencies act in accordance with the orders. If, as I, for one, believe the orders have at least the effect of a government-wide regulation, the likelihood is that numerous issues will be litigated in the negotiability arena.

Federal unions prefer ULPs as they don’t have to do much work, so there will likely be a ton of them filed. It will also be interesting to see what happens if the unions continue their stonewalling tactics and Agencies continue to implement changes in employment conditions because the unions refuse to negotiate.

As you can tell from the hyperlinks, FedSmith has been covering this matter from its beginning. People who accuse the Supreme Court of making political decisions really need to read the district court’s decision as it was a perfect exposition of the extreme left-wing’s view of labor relations. It’s very good that cooler heads have, so far, prevailed.

As always, my opinions are always mine alone. Trolls, go for it!

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.