Trump’s fight with federal employee unions gets real on Monday

July 8 at 8:03 PM 
Read the full article on the Washington Post here.

Federal agencies on Monday begin implementing executive orders from President Trump on how to confront employee unions, following strict guidelines likely to escalate tensions that have been building since the president took office.

The administration describes Trump’s new rules, issued in May, as an effort to streamline a bloated bureaucracy and improve accountability within the federal workforce of 2.1 million. The unions counter that the orders are only the latest in Trump’s aggressive actions intended to weaken their bargaining power and make it easier to fire government workers.

Jeff Pon, chief of the Office of Personnel Management, gave agencies details late last week for implementing the presidential orders.

The administration wants agencies to reopen collective bargaining agreements to reduce the on-duty time union representatives spend representing employees. Managers are directed to “monitor and carefully report” on the time and make the information publicly available. And agencies are directed to move swiftly to fire poor performers, renegotiating any contracts that allow for progressive discipline.

The conflict appears headed for a showdown, either in federal court, where the unions have filed numerous lawsuits challenging the orders, or in Congress. The administration and the unions have courted Capitol Hill allies, with Republicans supporting Trump’s tactics and Democrats backing the unions, a key constituency.

Trump’s executive orders represent a broadening of the get-tough initiativesthat have played out in individual agencies since he took office, including recent efforts to force unions to move out of government-paid office space and to rein in the use of official work time by union representatives who deal with employee grievances and disciplinary matters.

Furious union leaders have sued the president, charging that he exceeded his authority and broke the law guaranteeing federal workers union representation. A judge is expected to consider all of the lawsuits later this month.

“Candidly, I find it reprehensible,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees. “Why are the president and the administration continually on the attack against working-class Americans who are simply doing a job they’re proud to do?”

For decades, unions have had vast power over the federal workforce, demanding a voice in almost every workplace issue except pay, which is set by Congress. Federal employee union membership is growing, even as private sector union enrollment declines. And efforts by previous Republican administrations to diminish union power have been piecemeal.

But since his 2016 election, Trump has made clear that he considers unions to be major contributors in driving up costs and paralyzing agencies in their attempts to discipline poor performers.

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“President Trump has been very clear since the campaign trail that he wants to go after waste and fraud in government. Reforming the federal workforce is a giant step in ensuring more accountability for the government’s use of American taxpayer dollars,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

A key player for Trump

Many of the efforts have been overseen by James Sherk, a former Heritage Foundation labor economist who joined Trump’s transition team to tackle labor challenges. He now sits on the low-profile Domestic Policy Council. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.

Over a decade at Heritage, a leading conservative think tank, Sherk, 37, wrote policy papers on the need to roll back public employee labor rights. He helped Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) engineer a plan to bust the state’s employee unions in 2011. He argued for freezing federal salaries to bring them in line with the private sector and said in a 2007 video that the landmark 1993 law granting unpaid family and medical leave encourages employee timecard abuses.

Since Trump took office, Sherk’s hard-line stance has helped guide the ongoing power struggles with the unions, according to Trump advisers.

In quick succession, federal employees have been subjected to budget cuts, a hiring freeze, a proposed pay freeze and $143 billion in proposed cuts to retirement benefits.

The administration worked through Congress last year to push a precedent-setting bipartisan law clearing the way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire problematic employees.

In June, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney proposed a government reorganization that the unions branded as a thinly disguised effort to slash jobs.

And Trump officials have cracked down on day-to-day work practices that had been in place for years, severely restricting telecommuting at some agencies, for example, and forcing union representatives to give up free office space and even parking spaces.

The new rules also restrict working conditions that can be bargained over. They give poor performers 30 days to show improvement rather than the current 120 days. They make performance a key factor, rather than seniority, when layoffs are on the table.

The administration signaled its hard-line posture in March when the Education Department imposed its own contract after months of bargaining with the American Federation of Government Employees broke down.

Education officials, meanwhile, are enforcing the contract. The union has been kicked out of its small offices at the agency’s Washington headquarters and its regional offices and told it must pay rent.

Last month, management sharply curtailed telework to one day a week, a benefit pushed by the Obama administration as a way to save expensive office lease costs and keep cars off the road. Agriculture and some Commerce Department offices also have slashed telework, a practice Trump officials have said they suspect leads employees to slack off.

Education officials also are insisting that union representatives take time off to represent employees, instead of carving out a portion of their workweek for what is known as “official time” to represent employees who have filed workplace grievances. The AFGE is temporarily sending lawyers from its national office to step in for local representatives.

As the largest government workers’ union, with 700,000members, the AFGE says management’s contract is illegal — and guts previously negotiated provisions for telework, performance evaluations, work schedules and other protections. The union is awaiting a ruling from the Federal Labor Relations Authority onits complaint of unfair labor practices.

Resolution of the dispute is uncertain, though. Trump has not named a general counsel for the authority, who would have to approve any disposition for labor or management.

Targeting unions

Under Trump, the FLRA has issued a number of anti-union decisions. One reversed years of case law that had allowed unions to bargain over changes to employees’ conditions of employment, such as changes to job duties.

The administration also disbanded advisory labor-management forums at federal agencies created in the Obama era to foster dialogue.

A White House official said the forums were a “waste of resources and sucking up a ton of our time.” But the unions called them valuable tools that improved productivity and resolved disputes before they required costly arbitration.

“Official time” has been a particular target for the White House. Trump’s orders restrict to 25 percent the on-duty time employees may be paid for union work.

“It means greatly diminished representation,” said David Borer, the AFGE’s general counsel, adding, “We’ve never been attacked quite like this before.”

The White House official said that limiting it will serve a purpose. “If they have to pay the costs, then they won’t be bringing Mickey Mouse grievances,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about labor-management issues.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, union officials say they have received emails from management recently that strongly suggest they accept limits on official time rather than bargain over the issue.

And management has told the union to stop using agency parking spaces, phones, computers and other resources to which they have long had access. Unions said they expect other agencies to follow suit.

“The agency feels empowered,” said Holly Salamido, president of AFGE Council 222 of HUD locals. The president “can’t just use an executive order to override a contract.”

Trump’s orders can be undone by the next president. But the White House decided that presidential orders were a better path to immediate change than seeking legislation, even in a Republican-controlled Congress, because of the vast political clout of federal workers.

“The administration has played its cards,’’ said Donald F. Kettl, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “and the perception of union-busting has cut off any possibility for bipartisan action on needed reforms to government and the civil service.”

The executive orders have drawn opposition from a majority of Senate Democrats and a bipartisan group in the House, who have written letters to the president. Last week, four current and former House members submitted a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of the unions in their federal court challenge. The brief says the executive orders would open the door to patronage and upend the “merit-based, non-partisan” civil service.

Sherk and the policy council, meanwhile, are awaiting the court’s decision while planning more unspecified workforce changes, administration officials say. The top priority now, the White House official said, is to ensure that the new limits on unions are enforced throughout the government.

Read the full article on the Washington Post here.

Community Service: AFSCME – The Union that Never Quits

Proving that AFSCME Never Quits, AFSCME Local 7 members and volunteers from five Toledo local unions, along with several Toledo Whitmer High School football players, came together over a blistering hot weekend to replace the roof at Mom’s House, a non-profit organization that helps low-income single mothers as they work to achieve the educational goals needed to become effective parents.

Work replacing the 21-year old roof started at 6 in the morning “and ended at 1:30 in the afternoon when roof top temperatures reached 115 degrees,” said Don Czerniak, president of the union for Toledo’s blue-collar city employees.   

“One of the great things about Mom’s House is it affects the lives of two generations by providing education opportunities for both parent and child.  And we think that makes our community stronger,” Czerniak said.

“Everyone here is here on their own time. It’s the hottest day of the year and they’ve made a decision that they’re going to come help us, and for us that means the world. We can’t function without our community,” said Christina Rodriguez, Executive Director of Mom’s House.

In a melting pot of 115 degree heat and 100 percent solidarity, AFSCME Local 7 City of Toledo members joined with members of five other Toledo unions to spend a blistering weekend replacing the aging roof at Mom’s House, a non-profit organization that helps low-income single mothers. Photo: AFSCME Local 7

Remembering Joe Patterson

We’re sorry to report that Joe Patterson, an AFSCME Council 8 Local 1091 member, lost his life Sunday while working at the Rainsboro Fire Station in Highland County after sustaining injuries while working with compressed air cylinders.

Patterson will be remembered for many things, but his fellow firefighters and EMTs remember him as a mentor who would put it upon himself to help newcomers and a man who could lift everyone’s spirits even under tough circumstances.

“He was the one that took the harshness off a bad situation,” said Chillicothe Assistant Fire Chief Steve Gallagher. “He was just a great guy. It’s going to be a huge loss. We’re going to miss him.”

Monday afternoon Patterson’s body was brought to Ware Funeral Home where an outpouring of support came from everywhere. Several people exited their vehicles and stood in respect as Patterson passed and a women, whose son serves as a volunteer firefighter in Green Township, released red balloons while holding her hand over her heart.

Paint Creek Fire District posted a Facebook status on Sunday afternoon saying: “It is with deepest sympathies that we have been informed that our brother has been called home and answered his final alarm and did not survive the injuries inflicted by the accident.”

Joe Patterson represents all the members in our union. He was courageous, compassionate, and spent his life helping his community and the people around him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joe’s family and his fellow union brothers and sisters during this difficult time.

AFSCME members like Joe spend every day working to keep our communities safe.

AFSCME Local 101 members provide maintenance and safety services for the Dayton Airport

AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employee’s union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. With members in hundreds of different occupations, AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

Cincinnati Local 3119 Nurses Celebrate Nurses Week

Cincinnati’s public health nurses combined AFSCME Local 3119 swearing in of officers with a tribute to their profession during National Nurses Week.

According to Union President Gina Pratt, National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, marking the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

“Our public health nurses are committed to improving the health of the Cincinnati community. And we’re proud AFSCME members,” she said.

AFSCME Local 3119 members make home visits, are school nurses, are part of the children with medical handicaps program, and work in the clinics.

Tight budgets put pressure on all public employees and nurses are no exception. “We have a voice on the job with AFSCME. And we’re using that voice to keep our current services and working to fill the health care needs of our city,” Pratt said.

According to Gallup polls, 80 percent of Americans say nurses have “very high” or “high” standards of honesty and ethics.

Cincinnati Regional Director Renita Jones-Street, right, swears in the recently elected AFSCME Local 3119 officers during a Nurses Week celebration.

City Workers Part of Tornado Response Team

When the first tornado of the season struck Grove City, members of AFSCME Local 1116 were on the job after the storm’s 105 mph winds tore a 2.6-mile strip through the city of 40,000 southwest of Columbus.

“There was no shortage of city workers in the Service Department who volunteered to help. Our crews jumped in and cleared fallen trees, blocked off streets, and replaced traffic signs so utility company crews could safely set to work getting the power back on,” said AFSCME 1116 Local President Sean Gabriel. 

The April 3rd storm hit the city at around 5:30 p.m. and tore off roofs, downed trees, and damaged more than 30 utility poles which knocked out power to 8,500 Grove City-area residents. 

Several people were stuck on city streets because live power lines were in contact with their vehicles. The last was freed after more than five hours after the tornado struck.

“Everyone in the Service Department had a job to do including our members in the Parks and Recreation who joined in the tree and debris cleanup work. It just shows that AFSCME members “Never Quit,” Gabriel said.

Catholic bishops are backing AFSCME in U.S. Supreme Court Fair Share Fee Case

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has sided with unions in the Janus vs. AFSCME case now before the U.S Supreme Court. The Bishops submitted an amicus brief in support of public-sector unions and their right to “fair share fees” from nonmembers for the collective bargaining and representation benefitting non-members.

The bishops’ involvement with Janus vs. AFSCME. surprised some. But church leaders made their support clear, taking part in a forum last week on labor and faith at Seton Hall University.

Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin, on stage with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, explained the bishops’ interest in the case saying the church has a long history of supporting workers and unions. “You should not be able to benefit from all the work that unions do to represent workers without paying your fair share,” Cardinal Tobin said.

Pope Francis, who recently told a gathering of union delegates in 2017, “There is no good society without a good union.” He was far from the first Pontif to side with unions and workers. In his 1981 encyclical Pope John Paul II lauded organized labor organizations as “an indispensable element of social life” And in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged the church’s long history of Catholic-labor relations in a lengthy encyclical.

The Bishop’s brief argues that ruling against the unions would “constitutionalize” a national ‘right-to- work’ law. The brief points out that no U.S. bishop ever publicly supported right-to- work laws.

Condensed from a story by Jack Jenkins/Religion News Service

March 23, 2018 Federal Legislative Report

Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Finalized

Congress wrapped up funding decisions for fiscal year (FY) 2018 nearly halfway through the fiscal year.  The compromise bill includes much needed investments for public services and does not include many of the harmful policy riders that were expected. In addition, the final package rejects President Trump’s proposed cuts of $54 billion to domestic public services. Instead, Congress increased investments by $63 billion for domestic spending. Defense spending was also increased by $70 billion, as part of the earlier two-year budget agreement.

President Saunders noted: “I am pleased that this bill rejects and reverses the deep and harmful cuts proposed by the Trump administration. It makes important investments in health care, education, and infrastructure. It also staves off extreme attacks on labor rights, immigrant rights, and other priorities of working families. Though the bill is far from perfect, for the first time in years, investments in working families will move in a positive direction.”

These domestic funding increases are important, but they do not make up for the inadequate investments in programs that have been restricted by tight budget caps since 2011. On the plus side, the bill includes substantial increases to child care, public education, higher education, census planning, opioid abuse prevention and treatment, transportation, and housing.

Policy Riders

AFSCME and our allies fought back over 160 poison-pill policy riders that threatened workers’ rights to organize, workplace safety protections, sanctuary cities, consumer protections, environmental protections, and more. Specifically, efforts to weaken the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); to add so-called “Tribal Sovereignty” language that aimed to exempt businesses from adhering to National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) worker protections; and to block, delay or otherwise undermine the “fiduciary rule” to protect workers’ retirement savings, were all rejected. Additionally, attempts to expand the H-2B visa program were thwarted, extending only the current program through the end of 2018 which also includes a provision that grants the DHS Secretary discretionary powers to increase the cap if “need” is determined. The bill does not include the president’s request to build a wall at the border with Mexico. Instead it provides $1.6 billion in border security funds, including funds to fix existing fencing and levee structures.

The ACA and DACA

The bill fails to address certain issues requiring immediate action, including efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by stopping the Trump administration’s action to sabotage and undermine the individual health insurance market. Without legislative action the administration’s efforts will continue to raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs in the individual market.

The omnibus also falls short by failing to provide a fair and permanent solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and creates a pathway to citizenship.

The Tip Rule Agreement

The bill includes a compromise that would prohibit employers from keeping employees’ tips and allows workers to sue employers for stolen wages with damages. While this is a step in the right direction, some lawmakers oppose the compromise out of concerns that it would allow employers to decrease workers’ pay and replace it with tips.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

A six-month FAA extension gives Congress until the end of fiscal 2018 to work out a long-term solution and omits earlier efforts to advance privatization.

Funding for Key Issues:

Department of Education

The bill provides a $3.9 billion increase (6 percent), for Department of Education including:

– Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV), a source of funding for school counselors and school safety, would see a $700 million increase for a total of $1.1 billion. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– Title I state grants are increased $300 million, to $15.8 billion.

– Title II grants are level funded at $2.1 billion. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– IDEA grants to states are increased $275 million to $12.3 billion.

– 21st Century Community Learning Centers are increased $20 million to $1.2 billion for before and after care available to low-income students. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– Increases the maximum Pell grant by $175 to a total of $6,095.

– Head Start is increased $610 million to $9.9 billion.

– Child Care and Development Block Grant is increased $2.4 billion, to $5.2 billion.

– Secure Rural Schools (SRS) had expired, but received a two-year authorization for $426 million over 2 years with $220 million retroactively for FY 2017, and $206 million for FY 2018 in mandatory funds.

Public Health

The bill provides an additional $3 billion in programs that help states, tribes, local governments, nonprofits, and faith-based groups prevent, treat, and stop the opioid abuse epidemic.

Department of Labor (DoL)

The bill provides a slight increase in DoL funding, (1 percent), as opposed to a 20 percent cut, as proposed in the president’s budget. Increases include:

  • Employment Training Administration (ETA) is increased by $44 million for a total of $10 billion, including $2.8 billion for job training grants to states, $89.5 million for YouthBuild, and $145 million for apprenticeship grants.
  • Job Corps is increased by $15.5 million to $1.7 billion.

The Census

The bill increases Census funding by $1.344 billion to prepare for the upcoming Census, a $1.13 billion increase over the President’s request.

The Social Security Administration (SSA)

The bill increases SSA funding by $480 million, including $280 million for IT modernization and $100 million for reducing the disability hearings backlog.


  • Public Housing Operating Fund is slightly increased by 3 percent to $4.55 billion but is significantly below the full funding level that Public Housing Authorities need to operate America’s 1.2 million public housing units.
  • Public Housing Capital Fund is increased by 42 percent to $2.75 billion, which will provide additional funds to repair and modernize public housing. This is far short of roughly $40 billion needed to reduce the enormous backlog and to ensure units are safe, decent, and affordable.
  • Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program’s cap increases the maximum number of public housing units from 225,000 to 455,000 which are eligible for conversion and delays expiration of the RAD program to 2024. AFSCME opposes raising this cap and delaying RAD’s expiration.

East-West Center

The bill appropriates $16.7 million, the same amount as last year, for the East-West Center, which is a congressionally authorized non-profit in Hawaii that employs AFSCME HGEA members.


Highway spending is increased by $2.5 billion, including a $1 billion increase for TIGER grants, a $232 million increase for transit, and a $305 million increase for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Election Security

State election officials would get $380 million in technology grants to upgrade their equipment to ward off digital attacks.

JANUS: The Case That Could Destroy Unions, Part I

AFSCME President Lee Saunders and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders explain how the Janus case will harm unions and workers.

Toledo Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur Honored

After 35 years, two months, and 15 days, Toledo native Marcy Kaptur is set to break a nearly 60-year-old seniority record for a woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Sunday, Kaptur will become the longest-serving woman in the nearly 230-year history of the House.  She will break the record set by the late Edith Nourse Rogers, who was elected June 30, 1925, and represented a Massachusetts House district until 1960.

“Marcy Kaptur has always been a great friend of Toledo’s AFSCME members and of all Northeastern Ohio’s union members,” said Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall.  “She has never forgotten her roots or the people she represents,” he said.

Miss Kaptur was the first woman appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and has served on the Budget; Banking, Finance, Urban Affairs; Veterans Affairs, and other committees.

U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Marcy Kaptur, (4th from left), was with us from the start.  This 1983 photo shows her with, left to right, Ohio Council 8 Toledo staff representatives William Fogle, Chuck Hendrix, Toledo Regional Vice President John Hurley, Staff Representative Sally Powless, and Toledo Regional Vice President Cenia Willis.

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