Executive Orders Attempt to Weaken Civil Service, Disrupt Agency Workplaces

Press Release May 29, 2018

Washington, D.C. – The three new executive orders signed Friday are not just a threat to federal employees but to the orderly and efficient operation of the entire U.S. government, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said Tuesday.

“The executive orders indicate an administration threatened by workers with rights. Our union has been around 80 years and this is not our first battle on behalf of federal employees,” Reardon said. “The truth is these orders will disrupt the workplaces of every agency, add red tape and impede the quality work that taxpayers expect and deserve.”

The executive orders were posted after the close of business on the Friday before Memorial Day and reporters were briefed on their content well before employee organizations. In addition, an inflammatory and misleading one-page summary of the orders was released first, which left the impression that the orders would have an immediate effect on federal employees. They will not.

The collective bargaining agreements currently in place, after extensive negotiations with agency management, will remain in effect.

“The orders are alarming in their pejorative terminology and accusatory tone that federal employees are inherently wasteful,” Reardon said. “Every frontline federal civil servant, regardless of union membership, will understandably take offense.”

NTEU believes agencies will need to wait until contracts are reopened or expired before they can try to impose the anti-labor provisions called for by the executive orders.

The Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute was enacted specifically to promote high levels of employee performance and ethical conduct. Instead of strengthening this principle, the executive orders would erode the civil service’s foundation that employees’ skills and merit are valued over favoritism or politics.

Existing law also states clearly that union representatives are entitled to official time to negotiate collective bargaining agreements and other representational activities that are “reasonable, necessary and in the public interest” as agreed upon by agency management and employees.

“Once again, official time is not union time,” Reardon said. “It is where the men and women of the civil service make sure that they are treated fairly and that management is held accountable for unfair or discriminatory behavior. Resolving a dispute internally at the lowest possible level using official time saves taxpayers money by avoiding costly litigation.”

The creation of a new Labor Relations Working Group is a thinly-veiled attempt to coordinate the bargaining positions of every federal agency, regardless of the unique circumstances that vary widely from agency to agency. Notably, the group does not include federal sector labor unions and its “work product” would not be available to the unions or the taxpayers who are paying the salaries of the members of the group.

“NTEU is reviewing all of our legal options for making sure these harmful executive orders do not undercut the rights of federal employees to be treated fairly and with dignity,” Reardon said.

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.