House Dems want leaders to fight for spending bill's labor protections

 April 18, 2017, Rep. Jamie Raskin with WMATA's ATU Local 689 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) wants to block administration workforce policies in appropriations bills, (Photo courtesy Jamie Raskin's office)

More than 200 House members sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and key appropriators on Sept. 5, urging them to fight to retain language concerning federal workers' rights in a must-pass 2020 spending bill.

The letter, written by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and signed by 217 other Democrats, stressed that language preserving the rights of unionized feds to conduct necessary union business on the job and the ability of unions to collect dues from members should remain in the Financial Services and General Government funding bill passed by the House.

The provision in the funding bill would effectively negate any collective bargaining agreement reached since April 30 that was not "mutually and voluntarily agreed to" or not ordered as the outcome of binding arbitration. The measure also extends certain collective bargaining agreements that expired without being renegotiated.

"This is the first time in four decades that federal unions have had to come to Congress to ask for protection of the institution of fair collective bargaining," the letter stated. The measures in the funding bill are designed to beat back changes to collective bargaining practices contained in three Trump administration executive orders.

A district court judge had ruled that some aspects of those orders, including limits on the "official time" union members are permitted to spend on union duties while on the job and changes to bargaining agreements, contradicted existing law. However, an appeals court upended that ruling over a jurisdictional issue. The matter is currently under appeal, and an injunction preventing the full implementation of the orders remains in place. Under the terms of the ruling, unions must seek relief from the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Raskin, in his letter, stated that the FLRA "is now overtly hostile to unions."

"The ball is thus now in our court in Congress to protect federal workers, their besieged union rights, and the institution of collective bargaining in the federal sector," Raskin wrote.

The letter comes as the Senate returns from its summer break and gets to work on its slate of funding bills. While a continuing resolution is expected to prevent a shutdown at the start of fiscal year 2020, House lawmakers are hoping to have a spending deal in place before the Thanksgiving recess.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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