Chanting “an injury to one is an injury to all” several hundred members of the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the National Federation of Federal Employees launched a counter-offensive against the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate their jobs with a Sept. 23 lunchtime rally in Washington, D.C.
The high-energy event drew a who’s who from Congress and the labor movement.
Fighting Rights Cutback
The escalation in tactics came in response to President Trump’s issuing of three executive orders in 2018 that took direct aim at ending collective-bargaining rights and limiting the presence of unions in the Federal workforce, 57 years after President John Kennedy signed off on unions representing Federal workers.
Thanks to a Federal court injunction, Mr. Trump’s executive orders have not taken effect. But at the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Education, and Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Trump’s appointees have ignored the injunction and unilaterally imposed contracts after refusing to negotiate with the unions and having an impasse declared.
The Trump Administration forced a 35-day government shutdown, the longest in history, which deprived hundreds of thousands of civil servants of their paychecks, even for workers in public-safety jobs like Correction Officer and Air Traffic Controller, who were required to report for duty.
In August, the President’s acting Chief of Staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, 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.
‘Ready to Rise Up’
Throughout Mr. Trump’s 32-month tenure, he has left vacant key positions in agencies and oversight bodies like the Merit Systems Protection Board, which was established to proect civil servants from politics and whistleblowers from agency reprisals.
“I am fed up and ready to rise up,” declared J. David Cox, president of the AFGE. “The attacks on our contracts, on our rights, our voice at work. We are rising up today for dignity, for fairness, for respect and for a real voice on the job.”
“There are some troubled times with us. The EPA is being hit very hard,” said AFGE Local 3331 President Nate James. “I am here to explain that these are not merely political acts, these are attacks against Federal employees everywhere, and not just Federal employees, but America’s working families.”
He continued, “We got to tell people to lift their voices. We can no longer let our silence hold us in fear and afraid to speak in the workplace. We have to stand up—speak up. We have to rise up. We cannot stand silent.”
Pelosi Pledges Support
The crowd cheered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she proclaimed, “You are the champions of labor. The labor movement grew the middle class in our society. Our middle class has a union label on it.”
She told the union members and their supporters that the House of Representatives would not tolerate Mr. Trump’s “unprecedented assault” on the Federal unions and his political appointees’ ignoring of decades of due-process rights.
The House’s version of the 2020 appropriations bill includes a provision that prohibits government agencies from imposing contracts written outside the normal process.
“They’re imposing collective-bargaining agreements that aren’t collective, that aren’t bargained for and they’re sure as hell not agreed to,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the crowd.
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