Washington D.C. – Seventeen members of the House Education and Workforce Committee are urging leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a new contract with HHS employees.
“As a Committee with oversight over many of the Department’s programs, we are concerned by reports that the Department’s current failure to collectively bargain with its workers will undermine the Department’s ability to effectively administer its programs on behalf of the citizens we serve,” the lawmakers wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday.
The letter was signed by the ranking member of the committee, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, plus 16 others.
The National Treasury Employees Union represents about 14,000 HHS employees around the country, including at the Food and Drug Administration.
“We are grateful that these members of Congress recognize how important it is for HHS to bargain in good faith with its workforce,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “Pressure is building, and we hope HHS returns to the bargaining table to give their highly-skilled, dedicated employees a meaningful voice in their workplace.”
This new letter is in addition to two others sent in September by key members of Congress, all urging HHS to resume negotiations.
After only one full day of bargaining, HHS negotiators walked away from the table without explaining their final offer to eliminate 21 of 34 contract articles, and they’ve refused NTEU’s requests to resume talks.
“Such moves are irregular and disturbing, because they evidence the Department’s eagerness to declare an impasse without actually bargaining in good faith,” the committee members wrote Thursday.
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.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.