Appeals Court Delivers ‘Tremendous Blow to Federal Workers’ With Decision to Uphold Trump’s Anti-Union Executive Orders

“There must be a check on the president’s power to destroy federal employees’ union rights.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-16-2019

AFGE members protested President Donald Trump’s anti-union executive orders last year as their union filed a lawsuit against the president. (Photo: @AFGENational)

Unions representing hundreds of thousands of federal employees on Tuesday vowed to fight a federal appeals court ruling in which a three-judge panel unanimously upheld President Donald Trump’s executive orders attacking workers’ rights.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit said that it lacked jurisdiction to block Trump’s orders, which made it easier to fire federal employees, limited the amount of time workers can spend on union business, and compelled federal agencies to devise unfavorable contracts with unions.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents 700,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees affected by the orders, said it would fight the court’s decision “using every legal tool available to us.”

“Today’s terrible decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a tremendous blow to federal employees and their voice in the workplace,” said AFGE President J. David Cox. “The union-busting framework laid out in the executive orders and the actions already taken at the bargaining table so far demonstrate clearly that there must be a check on the president’s power to destroy federal employees’ union rights.”

The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the AFGE union representing EPA workers echoed Cox’s statement.

“In our view, these executive orders violate the law, and we are going to continue to fight them until we get a decision that sticks,” NFFE President Randy Erwin told the Washington Post. “This appeals court decision does not change the fact that the Trump administration severely overstepped its authority.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also expressed solidarity with the federal workers’ unions.

The court’s decision reversed a lower court ruling from last year which had struck down Trump’s orders. More than a dozen federal employee unions sued the Trump administration last year when the executive orders were announced, arguing that they blatantly violated a decades-old law affirming that workers have the right to collective bargaining.

“This is more than union busting—it’s democracy busting,” Cox said at the time.

As Lisa Rein of the Post pointed out, the appeals court ruled only that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the orders, not on the merits of Trump’s actions.

But while the court advised the unions to appeal to the Federal Labor Relations Authority, Reins noted on Twitter that “agency’s ruling[s] have been uniformally anti-union thus far under Trump.”

Rein reported Tuesday afternoon that the unions were discussing the case with their attorneys, and could either ask the appeals court to hear their arguments again or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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