Even as the nation’s largest union representing Federal workers battles with the Trump Administration to maintain collective bargaining, it is continuing to have success attracting new members.
The American Federation of Government Employees has won an election that cleared the way for the union to represent close to 600 civilian employees with the Michigan Air National Guard. The Federal Labor Relations Authority ordered the vote six months ago.
A 2-to-1 Margin
“The election solidifies AFGE as the exclusive representative for all Title 5 and Title 32 bargaining unit employees in the Michigan Air National Guard,” according to the union press release.
The vote was 2-1 in favor of joining the AFGE, according to results certified by the FLRA Oct. 4.
“AFGE fought hard to win the right to represent these workers and we could not be more excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” said the union’s District 7 National Vice President Dorothy James, whose territory includes Michigan.
Most of the employees work at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in facility-wide operations including air traffic control, civil engineering, aircraft maintenance, firefighting, and deployment.
Enrolled USDA Professionals
Last May, employees with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who work as economists, researchers, and analysts in its Economic Research Service voted 138 to 4 to join AFGE.
Those employees joined AFGE’s Local 3403 at the National Science Foundation, which includes other scientists and grant writers at the U.S. Geological Survey, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities.
USDA scientists and their EPA colleagues who conduct independent research into a wide array of subjects, including climate change, have been targeted by the Trump Administration for mandatory transfers across the country in an acknowledged effort to force them to leave government service.
In August, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff and Budget Director told a South Carolina political gathering that the administration was using forced agency relocations across the country as a technique “to drain the swamp” and force Federal workers off the payroll.
In May 2018, in a series of executive orders Mr. Trump sought to dramatically reduce the presence of unions in the Federal workplace by targeting union release time, which permits union representatives, who are also Federal employees, to represent their co-workers.
A Federal Judge ruled three months later that the executive orders violated the U.S. Constitution and laws passed by Congress by denying more than two million workers their right to union representation.
But in a major setback for the unions this past July, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel overturned that ruling, saying the court had lacked jurisdiction
Some Federal agencies, like the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. have been moving ahead with Mr. Trump’s executive orders which aim to force the unions out of the Federal workplace.
Agencies have also preempted the collective-bargaining process by having impasses declared and then imposing new contracts.
House Fights Changes
The House’s version of the 2020 appropriations bill included a provision that prohibits government agencies from imposing contracts written outside the normal process.
On Oct. 22, 41 U.S. Senators called on the EPA to return to the bargaining table with the AFGE after imposing new workplace rules for 7,500 employees.
“What is happening at the EPA is part of a larger mission by the Trump Administration to decimate Federal employee unions and leave employees with no voice to challenge mismanagement, workplace retaliation, and other abuses,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr.
The Senators challenged EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler over his implementing new workplace rules that cut telecommuting, restricted AFGE’s ability to represent employees in the workplace and denied workers access to the grievance process.
“Since the contract was imposed in July, AFGE representatives have been evicted from their union offices, denied access to meeting spaces, and blocked from communicating with employees through bulletin board postings,” according to a union statement.
“As our country faces increasingly dire environmental and public-health challenges, EPA must be prepared to meet these challenges head-on. It simply cannot do so with a demoralized and weakened workforce,” the senators wrote. “We urge EPA management to return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith.”
The 41 signatories included Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Gary Peters and Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper. Also signing the letter were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and all six U.S. Senators running for President: Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
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