In a June 11 letter to Trump, 21 members questioned whether the executive orders undermined existing labor law and urged the president to uphold “the longstanding federal labor statutes that protect America’s civil service from discrimination, unfair treatment and sexual harassment.”
Virginia Reps. Barbara Comstock and Rob Wittman were among the members who signed the letter, but the signatories represent a wide variety of constituencies from Illinois, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and North Carolina.
“We must ensure that the federal government strives to be a model employer that provides stellar services to the American public,” lawmakers wrote. “We are concerned that the recent executive orders embark upon a path that will undo many of the longstanding principles protected by law, which establish checks and balances not only in the federal workplace, but for the American public.”
Perhaps most notably, the members argued labor-management partnerships ultimately bring a valuable return on investment back to government agencies.
“Management and labor must work collaboratively to ensure that the workforce is safe, fair and productive,” members wrote. “The federal government is most efficient when these two entities can work together to address challenges and improve the delivery of public services. When such a system exists, the result is agency cost savings.”
Several Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against the president’s recent EOs, but the June 11 letter is one of the first notable records of opposition from Republican members of Congress. Republican leadership on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in contrast, praised Trump’s executive orders for their ability to reign in federal union influence on government operations and efficiency.
But several federal employee unions have slammed the president’s recent orders and are challenging two of them court.
The National Treasury Employees Union last Friday asked a federal judge to immediately block provisions in two of the president’s EOs. The union filed a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, with the intent of immediately rolling back provisions in the executive orders while the union’s lawsuit is pending.
“Federal employees should not lose their lawful rights granted by Congress at the president’s misguided stroke of a pen,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said Monday in a statement. “No harm can come from leaving the current collective bargaining system in place while the legal challenges against the orders proceed.”
NTEU originally filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging two of the president’s orders. The union argued the president’s orders on employee removals and official time violate provisions in the Civil Service Reform Act, particularly the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) also challenged Trump’s official time order in federal district court, though its legal arguments differ from NTEU’s. AFGE has argued the president’s EO violates its members’ First Amendment rights to expressive association.