Current and former House members file amicus brief in opposition to Trump’s executive orders

A bipartisan group of current and former House lawmakers have filed an amicus brief in the consolidated case from several federal unions challenging the president’s three workforce executive orders.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), along with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and former Reps. William Clay Sr. (D-Mo.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa), filed the brief in the AFGE, AFL-CIO et al. v. Trump case.

Clay and Leach were both members of what was then called the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee — now the Oversight and Government Reform Committee — when Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act and Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute back in 1978.

Their brief is part of a consolidated case from a coalition of at least 15 government unions. Lawyers from Public Citizen filed the brief on behalf of the four lawmakers.

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Both the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) previously filed separate lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in June. A coalition of 13 federal unions, led by the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), filed a separate suit in federal district court.

A federal judge decided to consolidate the cases and is expected to hear a motion for summary judgment in U.S. District Court on July 25. AFGE in late June filed its own, second lawsuit, outlining a different legal argument.

President Donald Trump in late May signed three executives on employee accountabilityofficial time and collective bargaining. 

But these four current and former lawmakers are the first to formally explain and inform the court of their opposition.

Like the unions who are challenging the president’s executive orders, the lawmakers claim the EOs conflict with the the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and Congress’ intention in passing both the statute and the civil service law.

The president’s order on official time limits the number of hours federal employees can spend doing union-related activities during normal work hours.

“By unilaterally prohibiting the use of official time for certain activities, capping the amount of official time that civil servants may be authorized and decreeing the way official time will be authorized, the official time executive order is incompatible with the statutory scheme Congress adopted,” the brief reads.

These limits not only conflict with the labor-management statute but also contradict Congress’ intent in authorizing official time and declaring the practice as “in the public interest.”

“The ability to bargain over official time for non-internal business, when that official time has not been mandatorily granted, is one of the tools Congress gave federal employees to help ensure that their statutory rights are protected and effective,” the brief said. “The President’s attempts to deprive employees of their right to negotiate over this time should be rejected.”

In addition, the lawmakers argued against the president’s executive order on accountability, which restricts federal unions from using the grievance process to appeal employee terminations.

Congress wanted federal employees to have access to a grievance and arbitration system to “largely displace the multiple appeals systems … unanimously perceived as too costly, too cumbersome and ineffective,” the brief read.

According to the statute, labor and management could agree to exclude a matter from coverage under the grievance process.

“The statute does not permit the president to unilaterally prevent employees from grieving these matters according to the terms of their collective bargaining agreements,” the brief said.

Cummings and King were among the House lawmakers who first expressed their opposition to the president’s executive orders in separate letters addressed to the president.

Nearly two dozen House Democrats and 21 Republicans, along with practically all Senate Democrats, have written the White House to express their concerns with the orders.