Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA

Union files unfair labor practice charge against EPA
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A union representing thousands of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the agency, formally accusing it of violating employee rights. 

In the charge, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union says that Associate Deputy Administrator Douglas Benevento “falsely disparaged and threatened the union and employees” in May and that Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities The conservative case for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons MORE made false statements about bargaining in July during meetings with regional staff. 

AFGE said that Benevento implied the EPA was unwilling to deal with the union because it shared agency communication with the media “despite the fact that such activity is protected by law.”

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The charge further stated that Wheeler falsely claimed that during contract negotiations, the union refused telework flexibility because it wanted more benefits for its leadership. 

“Wheeler and Benevento’s statements interfered with and chilled the exercise of rights of employees and union representatives. Both statements by Benevento and Wheeler falsely maligning the union were accompanied with threats of penalty or reprisal for the union’s lawful activities,” their charge said. 

In a statement to The Hill, the EPA said that its “offer of increased telework flexibility during negotiations in return for AFGE’s agreement on Official Time and the Negotiated Grievance Procedure is very well documented.”

“Additionally, after Doug Benevento spoke with AFGE leadership on April 22, EPA received press inquiry almost immediately afterwards asking for comment on the matters in that briefing. When contacted by the Federal Labor Relations Authority, EPA will provide all requested documentation to FLRA and will comply with their investigation,” an EPA spokesperson said. 

The complaint follows the recent union and agency signing a contract after years of disputes. 

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The collective agreement includes allowing employees to have up to two days of telework per week, allowing the union to use conference rooms without agency approval and requires the agency to provide personal protective equipment and indoor air quality testing.

During the negotiations, the AFGE, which represents about 7,500 EPA employees, filed a prior unfair labor practices complaint against the agency after it sought to implement a new contract for its employees without union agreement.

That complaint was later withdrawn as the EPA agreed to resume negotiations.