Unions sue Trump over orders making it easier to fire federal workers

Unions sue Trump over orders making it easier to fire federal workers
© Greg Nash

A coalition of 13 unions and the Federal Workers Alliance (FWA) filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging three executive orders President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE issued last month to make it easier to fire federal employees.

In a 32-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the unions, which also include the National Federation of Federal Employees, argue Trump’s orders violate the due process and collective bargaining rights of workers employed by the federal government

In the directives, Trump encourages agencies to enter into collective bargaining agreements that make it easier for agencies to reward high-performing employees and hold poor-performing employees accountable.

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He calls for new restrictions on how employees can use their official time on the job, prohibiting employees from communicating with or lobby members of Congress, as well as union representatives from using official time to prepare or pursue grievances against an agency.

He also encourages agencies to fire poor-performing employees without first suspending them and to prioritize an employee’s performance over their length of service when making decisions about who to keep and let go.

In one order, he directs agencies to limit the amount of time a poor-performing employee is given to show improvement.

But the unions say Trump has no authority to issue these orders under the Constitution itself or Congress. 

They say the orders conflict with, or seek to impermissibly rewrite portions of, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations (FSLMR) Statute without Congressional approval.

“Congress’s intent in passing the FSLMR Statute was to strengthen and promote collective bargaining in the federal sector. It was also created as a bulwark against unchecked executive power,” they wrote.

They say the law requires federal employees be given “official time” for certain union activity.  

“Trump seeks nothing more than the full authority to fire anyone who disagrees with him or challenges his ideology,” Randy Erwin, National Federation of Federal Employees’ national president and FWA co-chairman, said in a statement. "By limiting the rightful authority of unions to lawfully represent their members, he gets closer to instilling a culture of fear and intimidation in the Executive Branch.”

Erwin said the coalition is concerned that as systematic protections — such as representation, due process and the right to communicate with Congress — are eroded for federal employees, whistleblowers and other workers will fall prey to political corruption and extortion.

The unions are asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction to block the Office of Personnel Management from implementing Trump's orders.

Updated at 3:20 p.m.