Two senators have asked OPM to examine agency compliance with President Biden’s executive order that told agencies to bargain over topics that are negotiable at management’s discretion under federal labor law.
That order reversed one by President Trump telling agencies not to bargain in those areas—which concern technology, methods, and means of performing work—in the latest of a back-and-forth series of orders dating to the Clinton administration that changed direction each time a different party took control of the White House.
During both the Clinton and Obama administrations issues arose regarding agency compliance with orders to bargain on those so-called “Section (b)(1)” topics—named for where they are found in law—and have surfaced already in the Biden administration, according to Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin Cardin, both Maryland Democrats.
They said that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing refused to bargain as requested by several unions over a policy requiring workers to wear tracking devices, invoking a separate section of law providing for exceptions to bargaining obligations in emergencies. Neither Biden’s order “nor the related OPM guidance describe any such exception,” they wrote to OPM.
The emergency exception “does not appear to prohibit an agency from bargaining” in those areas if the agency elects to do so, and the Biden order “requires agencies to elect to do so,” they wrote in asking OPM to decide the issue.