Maryland, Virginia Congressmen Encourage HHS to Bargain with Employees

Press Release October 23, 2018

Washington D.C. – Six members of Congress who represent thousands of federal employees are asking Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to resume contract negotiations with the HHS workforce.

“HHS is required by federal law to attempt good faith negotiations with its employees,” the members wrote to Azar. “We urge you to return to the bargaining table and begin serious good faith negotiations as soon as possible.”

The new letter was signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. Anthony Brown, Rep. John Sarbanes and Rep. John Delaney of Maryland; and Rep. Don Beyer Jr. and Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia.

The National Treasury Employees Union represents about 14,000 HHS employees around the country, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

“Word is out that HHS is not giving its frontline employees the respect they deserve,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “The civil servants who work at HHS are grateful to these members of Congress for publicly defending their legal right to bargain collectively.”

After only two days of bargaining this summer, HHS negotiators walked away from the table without explaining their final offer to eliminate 21 contract articles, and they’ve refused NTEU’s requests to resume talks.

“HHS employees safeguard our medicines, provide invaluable health care assistance to families and children, and help people fight the horrors of addiction,” the Maryland and Virginia legislators wrote. “It is essential that the people who serve the public be treated fairly and equitably.”

The letter is in addition to three others sent in September and October by key members of Congress, all urging HHS to resume negotiations.

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.