Workforce

Union sues Trump over workforce order

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The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union, is suing President Donald Trump and the Office of Personnel Management over a recent executive order aimed at restricting union activity.

The lawsuit was filed May 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and targets an executive order to curtail the amount of time federal employees can spend conducting union business to one-quarter of their paid time. That order also prevents employees from lobbying during paid time outside of their official capacities as federal workers.

AFGE, which represents about 700,000 federal employees, claims this executive order — one of three workforce-related orders signed late last week — infringes on First Amendment rights and is an unlawful executive action. The suit specifically names Trump and OPM director Jeff Pon as defendants.

“Without any valid justification, it singles out labor organizations and their representatives for disparate, negative treatment as compared to individuals," the suit states.

"We will not stand by and let this administration willfully violate the Constitution to score political points," AFGE president J. David Cox said in a statement.

"Congress passed these laws to guarantee workers a collective voice in resolving workplace issues and improving the services they deliver to the public every day," he added.

The lawsuit represents another example of the strained relationship between federal unions and the Trump administration. At a May 16 Senate hearing, Pon admitted the relationship between the administration and unions was "not that good right now," adding, "there's not too much we can agree on."

A day after the hearing, OPM released a report on the use of official time — paid hours spent on union business by federal employees — by union officials in the federal workforce. Official time, which can include preparing and pursuing grievances and negotiating union agreements, is permitted under federal law.

According to the report, unionized feds clocked more than 3.6 million hours of official time in fiscal year 2016, with the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Transportation, Defense and Homeland Security, along with the Social Security Administration, spending the most on official time.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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