Two Democratic House leaders active in civil service issues have pressed the Education Department for a justification of why it unilaterally imposed a contract on the AFGE union there, in a possible preview for other departments and agencies.
The department imposed a contract that dropped the large majority of the prior provisions and that amended others, including for example generally requiring that employees who telework be physically present in their regular office at least four days a week. Other elements reflected provisions of the administration’s executive orders on bargaining that followed soon after, including reducing the amount of official time available to employees with union roles and denying the union free use of office space and agency equipment.
Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, the ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that action raises “serious questions about whether Trump administration officials are complying with laws requiring them to conduct negotiations in ‘good faith’ with the employees who dedicate their careers to promoting education in our nation.”
They noted that the department and the union had been negotiating for more than a year when in late 2017 Education declared the talks at an impasse and issued what it called its last and best offer. Afterward it canceled further bargaining and imposed that offer. They requested all documents, communications and other information that led to that decision.
The executive orders similarly call on agencies to be aggressive in declaring talks at impasse and imposing their proposals as binding under certain circumstances. The union has filed a complaint with the FLRA, a case that could set precedent regarding bargaining obligations in such situations in general.