Washington D.C. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should reverse course and immediately re-start negotiations on a new contract for its employees, according to two veteran House members with oversight of HHS programs.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging the agency to resume bargaining with the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 14,000 frontline employees at various HHS offices.
“We believe that federal workers at HHS and elsewhere in the Administration deserve to be treated with respect and to have full access to the workplace rights that Congress has provided through statute,” the letter states.
When bargaining began this summer, HHS proposed eliminating 21 of 34 contract articles without any explanation or reasonable attempt to negotiate. After only two unusually short days of bargaining, the agency issued a take-it-or-leave-it directive and walked away from the bargaining table.
“We believe that those proposals and the decision of HHS to file for assistance from the Federal Services Impasse Panel without a serious effort at negotiation violates the legal rights of federal workers to good faith bargaining,” the House members wrote.
HHS’ hardline approach to bargaining was inspired by the president’s May 25 anti-labor executive orders, most of which were recently invalidated by a federal judge. In light of that Aug. 24 court decision, NTEU expected the agency would return to negotiate with its employees. That has not happened, and now thousands of employees at the Food and Drug Administration, the Administration for Children and Families and other important HHS offices are left wondering about their contract, their workplace rights and their future at HHS.
“The men and women of HHS who work every day to advance the nation’s public health are grateful for the support from Rep. DeLauro and Rep. Schakowsky,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “HHS employees deserve a fair contract negotiated in good faith that gives them a voice in their workplace and keeps the agency a competitive employer, and we look forward to returning to the table as soon as possible to get it done.”
DeLauro is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for funding HHS. Schakowsky is the ranking member of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.