Executive Council Statement

Uphold Current Law to Protect the Collective Bargaining Rights of Federal Workers

The collective bargaining rights of federal workers are being crushed. This effort is being driven by three executive orders and the elimination of contracts that have been in effect for decades.  

In some agencies, long-standing contracts have been replaced with edicts imposed unilaterally by management, which has the audacity to refer to them as “collective bargaining agreements.”  

In other agencies, contracts are being annihilated by the anti-worker Federal Service Impasses Panel, which is supposed to resolve disputes in a neutral fashion. Instead, the FSIP is rubber-stamping the elimination of the core provisions of contracts through management’s unilaterally designed edicts.

In both cases, the destruction of workers’ rights to participate in unions and engage in collective bargaining is being systematically destroyed, and federal workers cannot and shouldn’t have to wait years for a court outcome. Congress must intervene now to protect the rights of federal workers by passing legislation to ensure that agencies abide by the law and bargain in good faith.

Unilaterally imposed “contracts” are removing unions from the federal workplace—allowing no space to conduct specific representational duties as required by federal law.  

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 codifies the collective bargaining rights of federal employees and describes them as “safeguarding the public interest.” The law requires federal agencies and federal employee unions to bargain in good faith over grievance and arbitration procedures and the conditions of employment.

Federal workers perform a broad variety of functions on behalf of the American people, including caring for our nation’s veterans; providing civilian support to our military; protecting the safety of our air, food and water; securing our borders, airports and federal buildings; providing our seniors and people with disabilities with Social Security benefits and services; preserving our national landmarks and national parks; and protecting our communities from people who are incarcerated in our federal prisons. Federal employees demonstrate their profound dedication to serving the American public; and the government should protect, not undermine, their rights in the workplace, including their right to bargain collectively through a union.

Federal workers deserve fair and genuine collective bargaining and representation free of any political agenda. Federal employee unions help protect the apolitical, professional civil service and ensure high-quality and apolitical delivery of vital services to the American public.  

Attacks on federal workers’ collective bargaining rights at federal agencies are inhibiting constructive, collaborative labor-management relationships that facilitate a better, safer and more productive workforce and have proven successful in preventing workplace discrimination, promoting a healthy and safe work environment, and preventing retaliation against whistleblowers.  

Allowing any employer, especially the federal government, to use politics to defy laws establishing the right for workers to democratically form and join unions undermines the rule of law and the existence of a free, independent labor movement in our country.

Congress must act to protect federal workers’ collective bargaining rights. Section 749 of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill (H.R. 3351) includes language that upholds current law and prevents federal agencies from unilaterally imposing anti-worker contracts. We urge the leadership of the House of Representatives to include this provision in the final funding measure for FY 2020.