Biden Administration Restores Respect for Career Civil Service

Press Release January 22, 2021

Washington D.C. – President Biden today restored balance and stability to labor-management relations in the federal government by revoking a series of executive orders that had done nothing but disrupt the workplace and disrespect career civil servants. 

“During the campaign, then-candidate Biden promised he would tear up those three anti-worker orders from 2018 because he recognized how harmful they were and today he kept that promise, much to the relief of frontline federal employees around the country,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.  

Biden also revoked a separate 2020 order that threatened basic due process rights for thousands of employees by reclassifying them in a way where political loyalty – and not merit – would determine whether they kept their job. 

“Taken together, those four orders were an existential threat to our civil service because they put us on the path backward to the spoils system and diminished the ability of federal employees to have a meaningful voice in the workplace,” Reardon said. “By revoking the orders, the Biden administration upholds the 138-year-old standard that rejects patronage and makes sure the people who carry out the day-to-day business of government are nonpartisan, nonpolitical and highly qualified for the task.” 

NTEU aggressively challenged all four orders in court because they were contrary to federal law. 

“This is a good day for public service because the President of the United States has declared, once again, that working for the federal government is a noble pursuit and that our government will respect your service,” Reardon said.  

The workforce executive orders from 2018 were designed to weaken federal sector unions by restricting their ability to represent employees, unfairly limiting bargaining and removing accountability for agencies that mistreat their employees. As directed by a federal appeals court, NTEU was using the administrative process to challenge multiple provisions of those orders and many of those challenges have been successful. 

“We believe President Biden’s new orders provide clear direction for labor relations officials at federal agencies to reverse course and, where necessary, return to the table to bargain in good faith with their employees as the law requires,” Reardon said. “In those cases where agencies used the Trump orders to take away employee or union rights, the damage can and should be undone immediately.” 

NTEU’s two-and-a-half-year strategy of fighting the executive orders in court, at the negotiating table and through the administrative process paid off as no agency where we represent employees was able to inflict any harm on workers that can’t be reversed by a return to good faith negotiations over collective bargaining agreements and resolving related disputes.  

“The canceling of these executive orders is welcomed, but NTEU is also celebrating the president’s message that the expertise and experience of career civil servants will be valued under a Biden-Harris administration,” Reardon said. 

NTEU represents employees in 33 federal agencies and offices.