Despite verdict, workforce orders still on hold

coworkers at computer (SFIO CRACHO/ 

The Trump administration is going to have to wait a little longer to put its three workforce executive orders into full effect.

A federal appeals court this July overturned a lower court decision invalidating certain key portions of three orders pertaining to collective bargaining and "official time" -- the time federal workers are permitted to spend conducting union business while on the job. The lower court ruling also invalidated a section of the orders that makes it easier to fire federal employees.

In July, with that judgment in hand, the Trump administration asked the court to lift the injunction on implementing the orders in full. The administration argued in court filings that "agency officials' conduct of [collective bargaining] negotiations (and the President's supervision of that conduct) is presently constrained by the erroneously issued injunction."

The unions argued to keep the injunction in place, further delaying the implementation of the executive orders. "There is no harm, irreparable or otherwise, from keeping that 40-year status quo in place while the normal appellate process plays out," a union attorney stated in a July 23 filing.

On Aug. 14, the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the government motion to lift the injunction that would allow the executive orders to take effect.

"Denying the government's motion was the right call," said J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "The government provided no good reason for the court to dissolve the injunction prematurely and speed up the administration's efforts to violate the law and send the federal workforce into disarray. This is a vitally important case that the court should rehear."

The appeals court ruling didn't uphold the executive orders on their legal merits, but rather pointed out that civil service statues leaves initial jurisdiction over such matters to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

"We reverse because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction," Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote in his unanimous opinion. "The unions must pursue their claims through the scheme established by the Statute, which provides for administrative review by the FLRA followed by judicial review in the courts of appeals."

The unions intend to file an "en banc" review, seeking the decision of the full appeals court, an AFGE spokesperson told FCW. 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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